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From the These 12 extraordinary Southern Illinoisans are 2018's Leaders Among Us series
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Help is absolutely necessary to find Judy Courter’s office at Franklin Hospital. As the laboratory manager, Courter’s desk is in a room past a storage closet and through the lab itself, down several hallways, a ramp and corners which twist around from the main entrance of the Benton facility. To get there, you need a map or a guide.

Fortunately, members of the hospital auxiliary are eager to show you the way.

“Do you know, Judy?” the smiling volunteer asked as she began to guide me through the first-floor maze. I answered that this was my first time meeting the 60-year-old resident of Macedonia.

“You’ll love her,” she said, “she does so much for the hospital and so many people.”

In visiting with Courter, I quickly realized that the volunteer was exactly right. Not only does she oversee all of the laboratory services of the hospital, she also is the emergency coordinator for disaster preparedness. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she’s one of the hospital’s volunteers, too, working nearly a dozen hours each week off of the clock.

“I’ve just always kept busy and I’ve always been big on giving,” Courter explained. “I think when you give to other people, it makes you feel better; it enhances me.”

Much of Courter’s giving and strong work ethic comes from her upbringing on the 300-acre farm where she still lives.

“I was raised by two people and saw in my grandparents on both sides that you work hard and don’t quit; you keep going,” she recalled. “My parents were always busy and that’s where I got it. Hard work and taking care of family comes first.”

Raising three children on her own in the mid-1990s, Courter returned to school to pursue a career in healthcare. She worked at both Marshall Browning Hospital in Du Quoin and Franklin Hospital, where she has served as lab manager for more than a dozen years, with the same focus.

“My philosophy with the lab is as long as you treat every person with whom you come into contact — physicians, patients, their family members, fellow workers — like your family and friends, you won’t have any problems. Go the extra step and give the extra care. It’s the philosophy of wanting to take care of your family and friends. It’s that simple,” she explained.

That desire to care is why she volunteers, not only with the hospital auxiliary, but also in the community. For her, paying back means paying forward, just as her community has done for her own family.

“When my grandfather got sick, my father would get up every day and go work construction. He’d come home, get cleaned up and we’d go see my grandpa in the hospital. That went on daily from March to September. Then when we’d get home, my father would farm at night until three or four in the morning,” she recalled. “When grandpa died, all of the area farmers came with their combines and trucks to help get the crops out and they wouldn’t take a dime.”

Courter also remembered the outpouring of donations, food and support given to her parents following losing their home in a fire.

“I think that’s what helps me to be a giver to my community because that’s what I’ve seen over and over again.”

So Courter gives of herself. She took on the role of coordinating disaster preparedness for the hospital as well as serving on a countywide planning council, developing disaster plans, training programs, exercises and education sessions. She’s also a health connector for her church, bringing health education and preparedness programs to the members of the congregation.

“It’s just a good feeling of being prepared and I think it’s a further extension of helping others,” she explained. “We have learned a lot about disaster preparedness, but there’s always more to learn and we hope we never have to use it.”

She’s ready, however. Trained as part of a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chainsaw crew, she is ready if the need arises.

“I feel like that’s something I can contribute to because I have some medical background as well as some disaster preparedness. I really want to help because I feel it is a calling,” she explained.

Courter also tries to stay involved with her children and grandchildren, frequently attending sporting and school events. That’s how she got into Scouting.

“I’m the scoutmaster here in Benton. I figure I’ve been in Boy Scouts for 14 years and I’ve gone through all of the positions. This job as scoutmaster is only supposed to be one hour a week. It’s not,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Even though she said she would like to take more time for herself, Courter said she enjoys all that she does and has no plans to give any of it up.

“I’ll do this until I die,” she added. “I need to keep busy; I know that about myself. I don’t think I’m going to work past 70, but I think I’ll always volunteer. That is, if people need me and would want me.”

If the ladies who help people find Courter’s office at Franklin Hospital have any say in the matter, she will be busy for a long, long time.

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