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Faces of the foundations: Meet Dorothy Ungstad of the Ponoka and District Health Foundation

An Alberta Health Services feature profile
Dorothy Ungstad, board chair of the Ponoka and District Health Foundation, has been a resident of the Ponoka area since the early 1960s. She was instrumental in establishing the Foundation in 2011. A teacher for 38 years, she’s long been involved with community organizations. (Photo by Evan Isbister)

By Amelia Schofield

Alberta Health Services

Alberta Health Services recognizes May as Health Philanthropy Month. Throughout the month, we’ll be celebrating our philanthropic partners who raise funds for healthcare throughout the province.

The Faces of the Foundations profile series will introduce you to the individuals and groups who lead healthcare philanthropy across Alberta. This week, we’re pleased to profile Dorothy Ungstad, board chair of the Ponoka and District Health Foundation, which supports the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre and the Ponoka Community Health Centre.

Why did you become involved with the Ponoka and District Health Foundation?

The importance of health was instilled in me from a young age. Growing up, my uncle was a doctor, and his wife was a nurse, and they came to visit often. During those visits, my uncle always stressed how important health is and being healthy.

I later became a teacher — and I was asked to teach at the Crestomere School in Ponoka County for three months. Those three months turned into 38 years. During that time, I became involved in numerous organizations in the community. When I worked with the Ponoka school board, I was also involved with the school at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury.

After I retired, I served on the Board of Directors for the David Thompson Health Region. At this time, there were concerns that Ponoka did not have its own health foundation. So my friend Juanita Knight and I decided to pursue the idea of creating a foundation. The foundation was eventually formed, and we carefully selected board trustees from throughout the community. Over the years, we’ve had many different trustees from different backgrounds and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished.

Why is health philanthropy important to you?

I think healthcare philanthropy should be important to all people. It’s important to promote health and well-being and to involve people in improving healthcare in their communities. Giving, in some way, often makes people feel better — and anyone can give. No matter the size, every contribution really makes a difference for our community and the patients who receive care at our hospital.

What recent foundation accomplishments make you most proud?

We’re very proud of the Unfestival of Trees event we held in 2020 and 2021, where we successfully raised funds for new beds for long-term care at the hospital. We couldn’t hold an in-person event due to COVID-19. So, instead, we sent community members a letter asking for donations toward the beds.

With the help of the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre Auxiliary, we also placed trees with lights in the town hall near the windows for people to look at. Thanks to community support, including a $14,000 gift from residents of Legacy Place in Ponoka, we were able to purchase 10 new beds.

We were also pleased to host an in-person Festival of Trees this past winter. Our coordinator, Diane, decorated the trees beautifully. As well, we held numerous events including a gala, seniors tea, family day, ladies’ black-dress event and visits with Santa.

What initiatives are coming up for the foundation?

We recently took part in the 2023 Ponoka Trade Show, held by the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce. We’re also planning to do a spring cleanup of the Sommers Garden for staff and patients at the hospital. We’re looking forward to the 2023 Festival of Trees.

What’s the best way for Albertans

to support the foundation?

It’s not only about monetary donations. It’s about the health of people and connections to our community. Some cannot donate much, but every little bit helps. We welcome the community to volunteer with us — and we also encourage them to share how the hospital and community health centre have helped them.

There was recently a lady who’d been in the hospital for 70 days, and shared her experience with us. She commented on the kindness of the staff and the compassionate care she received. Such positive comments mean a lot in the community.