VNA director recognized

Work by the director of the Visiting Nurse Association hasn't gone unnoticed.

Executive Director Sue Birch of the VNA nabbed a $25,000 award Tuesday at a ceremony in Denver from the Livingston Fellowship Program. The program is one arm of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, which also gave away other money to recipients in other categories at an event at the Westin-Tabor Center.

"I am just deeply honored to receive the award, but it should go to the staff and agency and all who help out," Birch said. "It's an honor to know that rural health care is rising and leading the way to find solutions to problems."

Birch said that she isn't yet sure how she'll spend the money, but it will in some way address rural senior citizen health programs. That may mean Birch will travel to Japan to investigate its culture of cherishing the elderly, or programs that help seniors remain in their homes and advise when its time to live in a nursing home, she said.

Birch became the agency's executive director in 1992. She has created programs for at-risk populations, developed strategic partnerships and strengthened fiscal and administrative policies at the VNA. Some projects and boards she's most proud of include being named to the 14th Judicial Nominating Committee that helps choose judges, being a board member for the nonprofit funding organization Caring for Colorado and serving on the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services.

"It's really not about me, but about the agency, hospital, doctors and supporters," Birch said about receiving the award. "VNA has such great success because people in the community have helped support us."

Administrative assistant Sue Jones said Birch has made a tremendous impact helping the VNA but the director largely keeps those achievements quiet.

"I think one of the things that's unique is she really doesn't say much about getting awards," Jones said. "She doesn't really advertise how much she gets done for our agency. I've noticed that she chooses to lead by example."

The Foundation awards individuals who are making strides in the fields of the arts and humanities, community service and science and medicine.

It has awarded more than $28 million in grants to nonprofit organizations since it was formed in 1984, according to its Web site.

Other recipients to receive the $25,000 awards include Colleen Colarelli, president and CEO of Girls Inc. Metro Denver; Kevin Seggelke, president and CEO of the Food Bank of the Rockies; Jamie Van Leeuwen, director of development and public affairs of Urban Peak Denver; and Chip Walton, producing artistic director of the Curious Theater Company.

The nonprofit foundation also awarded five Coloradans on Tuesday night with an award dubbed the state's "Nobel Prize." Those awards totaled $75,000, with winners chosen from about 25 candidates.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com

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