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Tree Dedication Recognizes Hospital Staff, Those Lost To COVID

From left is Helen Baran, chair of the Westfield Memorial Hospital board, Pastor Vinny Sanzo and Westfield Memorial Hospital President Karen Surkala.

WESTFIELD — Westfield Memorial Hospital held a special dedication Thursday morning to honor the nurses, doctors, and staff who have been providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those that have lost their lives.

That dedication was made in the form of a birch tree, which represents new birth, new beginnings and growth.

“Allegheny Health Network started planning this a month or so ago,” said Westfield Memorial Hospital president Karen Surkala, “and we did it during Hospital Week to recognize associates who worked through pandemic, while also recognizing lives lost.”

The specific tree at Westfield Memorial Hospital was donated by Westfield Nursery, further embedding the theme of support and growth in the local community.

“They wanted to recognize community efforts and the lives lost in this community during the pandemic,” Surkala said.

The brief ceremony occurred right outside the hospital and was attended by hospital staff and board members. In addition, Pastor Vinny Sanzo from Lakeshore Assembly of God Church, gave a blessing during the dedication, offering words of advice for those staff members listening.

“We want to commend all of you,” Sanzo said during his blessing. “There’s a difference between the job you get paid for and the calling you were made for.”

The tree dedication came at an important time for the hospital staff and community, as the signaling of re-growth and new birth comes at a time when many across the world, Westfield included, have lost family and loved ones due to COVID-19.

“I think the staff was excited to have it this week,” Surkala said. “And we’ve had some folks in the community and hospital family who have lost loved ones so I think it touched them in a special place or had significant importance to them because of what has happened.”

Sanzo offered a further message of encouragement to the hospital staff, reminding them that they are the ones who can make a positive change in regards to the pandemic, and the health of the community in general.

“As we reflect on this, we reflect on those who have lost their lives, who are struggling now, and those who turn to you and ask for help,” Sanzo said.

At the foot of the newly planted birch tree, next to the flagpole on the front lawn, stands an engraved memorial plaque, commemorating those lost in the pandemic and their care-givers, with the message “In loving memory of those who are forever present in our hearts.”

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