Jennifer Hamilton in an exam room at the Galesburg VA Clinic.

Generations apart, impact of two nurses resonates through the region

Helen Wetherbee and Jennifer Hamilton were born decades apart but have the same thing in common—to improve the quality of healthcare in Galesburg.

Helen was a 1940 graduate of the Cottage Hospital School of Nursing, following in the footsteps of her mother and sister. She went on to receive her RN and BSN degrees, working as supervisor of obstetrics at Cottage Hospital before starting a family. She was later elected to the Cottage Hospital Board of Trustees, the first graduate of the hospital’s School of Nursing to hold the position.

Like Helen, Jennifer’s mother was a nurse at Cottage and Jennifer knew from a young age that she also wanted to follow her mother’s career path. “I remember my mom in her whites—white cap, dress and stockings—and I always looked up to her and it just became my calling to follow in her footsteps,” says Jennifer.

She became an LPN and has worked for many years at the Lane A. Evans VA Community Clinic in Galesburg. “I love my job and was content, but as I got older, I wanted more,” says Jennifer, who decided to take an online course.

While she enjoyed it, she found that first course at times intimidating. “My daughter, who had just gotten her bachelor’s degree, had to show me how to site resources, use technology, and other things. It was just so new to me after so many years.”

But that didn’t stop her. After that first course came many others, and Jennifer received her RN degree from Carl Sandburg College last year. She wanted to continue her education and knew she could juggle her job and other obligations to make it happen, but affording tuition became a real barrier.

Thanks to Helen Wetherbee, Jennifer is now pursuing her bachelor of science degree in nursing.

Jennifer is one of the recipients of the Helen H. Wetherbee Nursing Scholarship. It was established by Helen’s four children to honor their mother’s lifelong interest in health care and her significant achievements as a nurse, hospital trustee, and community leader in the advancement of healthcare. It is awarded annually to an individual in Knox or Warren Counties who has been accepted into a school of nursing or is currently studying under a nursing program. The scholarship is administered by Galesburg Community Foundation.

“If it hadn’t been for Helen Wetherbee’s scholarship, I honestly don’t think that I would have been able to afford to continue,” says Jennifer.

The scholarship is renewable as she completes her degree, which Jennifer anticipates will be in the spring of 2025. “I’ve been a nurse for 24 years now, and I still have the desire to learn and expand my scope of practice,” says Jennifer. “Having my bachelor’s will open doors for more leadership opportunities that will allow me to have a greater impact on my patients.”

The legacy of Helen Wetherbee, a healthcare trailblazer in the region, is intertwined with Jennifer’s own journey. With each step forward, she carries with her the spirit of Helen’s dedication to quality healthcare in the region.

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Haley Sloss

Charitable Giving Coordinator

Short Bio

Haley provides support to enhance the function and success of the Charitable Giving and Affiliate Teams. She ensures donors receive a personal approach to philanthropy through outstanding customer service by supporting charitable giving for donors and fund holders across the state.