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Photo by Pat Sunderland Pictured in front of the West Elk Clinic are (from left) Hotchkiss Mayor Wendell Koontz, contractor Scott Stryker, Senator Kerry Donovan and Jason Cleckler, hospital CEO.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Richard Stewart, grand orator of the Grand Masonic Lodge, places the cornerstone in the foyer of the West Elk Clinic as part of an orderly ceremony conducted by the Grand Masonic Lodge in conjunction with the Masonic lodges in Paonia and Hotchkiss.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Jason Cleckler, hospital CEO, hospital board members Bill Hellman (behind flag) and David Lane, and Masonic officers rip the bandaid off the front of the newly-opened clinic in Hotchkiss.

New clinic improves access to health care

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The new and the old came together in Hotchkiss in September to herald the opening of the West Elk Clinic. Not only is the clinic new, so was the ceremonial ripping off of the bandaid to reveal the sign on the front of the building. Scott Stryker of Stryker Construction dreamed up the concept to replace the more traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony.

But there was still plenty of tradition, in the form of a cornerstone ceremony conducted by the Grand Lodge of Masons of Colorado. Masons traveled across the mountains to join Mount Lamborn Masonic Lodge and the Paonia Masonic Lodge to perform the same ceremony that was overseen by George Washington at the U.S. Capitol building in 1793. A cornerstone was laid in the foundation of the Statue of Liberty in 1884, and at the Colorado State Capitol in 1890. Numerous public buildings in Delta County also have cornerstones laid by the Masons.

While today the ceremony is entirely symbolic, in ancient times proper placement of the cornerstone was essential to the accurate placement of subsequent stones, which were stacked on top.

Cornerstones traditionally show the date, the name of the Masonic Grand Lodge, the name of the building and the Masonic emblem. A recess behind the cornerstone contains a time capsule, which in this instance was filled with newspapers, menus from local restaurants, and the names of hospital board members, clinic staff, town staff, council members, and the members of the Masonic lodges.

The ceremony employs the ancient working tools of stonemasons -- the plumb, the level and the square. The tools represent the virtues of morality, equality and rectitude. With each application of the tools, the officers attest to the fact the craftsmen have done their work correctly and with skill. The symbolism continues with consecreation, which employs corn, wine and oil. These three elements have been used in dedications since the time of ancient Rome, and represent nourishment and plenty (corn), joy (wine) and peace, healing and comfort (oil).

To the residents of the North Fork Valley, the clinic represents the hospital's commitment to improved access to health care countywide, a commitment that encompasses both behavioral and physical health in Hotchkiss and Paonia. Jason Cleckler, CEO of Delta County Memorial Hospital, said the hospital is also striving to improve affordability. "We believe providing care closer to home makes health care more affordable to people," he said.

He recognized board members David Lane, Bill Hellman, Jean Ceriani, Jim Briscoe and Dory Funk, the hospital's administrative team, and the clinic's staff and providers.

Several dignitaries were on hand to witness the clinic opening, including State Senator Kerry Donovan, Hotchkiss Mayor Wendell Koontz, town council and staff, and Scott Stryker of Stryker & Company, general contractors.

The 10,000-square-foot clinic was designed by architect Thomas Chamberlain. Lofty ceilings and large windows make the clinic feel airy and spacious. Two central work areas, surrounded by exam rooms, attest to a team approach. Photos, paintings and multimedia pieces by 23 North Fork artists are prominently displayed in the clinic lobby, reception area and exam rooms.

The clinic is managed by Rae Sanchez and has four providers. Physicians Ryan Marlin, Marie Matthews and Matthew Lebsack are board certified in family medicine. The fourth provider is Adam Zerr, a certified family nurse practitioner. All are accepting new patients.

The clinic is located at 230 E. Hotchkiss Avenue and can be reached by calling 872-3800.

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