Living our values: Alicia & Thanksgiving

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When the November cold inevitably rolls in and the Halloween decorations come down, many of us turn our attention to the next holiday. Thanksgiving may be the most American holiday. It is hailed as a time of giving thanks and consuming copious amounts of turkey and stuffing. Maybe you don’t like the awkward dinner with extended family or the mountain of dishes that come after, but it is undeniable that this time of year comes with a beautiful warmness. The snow and ice dominate our rural countryside, but the season’s cheer keeps us nice and cozy. However, that warmth is not felt by all. Not everyone has a place to go on Thanksgiving or a delicious dinner with friends and family. This time of year is an excellent time to showcase staff living our values in and out of the workplace.

Living our values

Alicia Ahrendt

Doing for others

Alicia Ahrendt is a referrals and authorizations coordinator at Tri-County Health Care. She, like many members of staff, takes community involvement very seriously. For the last ten years, Alicia, along with a team of her fellow parishioners at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, put on a huge charity dinner for Thanksgiving.

In 2012, church organizers pulled together the big dinner in just three weeks. Since then, the event has become an even more efficient operation. Planning starts in early November, and dozens of hours go into this special dinner. The church organizers and volunteers serve hundreds of people on Thanksgiving Day, many of which can’t make their own Thanksgiving dinner or don’t have the ability to travel.

Living our values

Organizers will serve around 200 people at each dinner.

Alicia and the organizers ask for donations from the congregation and people attending the dinner. Guests may donate food items. All raised funds and food go to the Sebeka food shelf. The church even makes a matching donation of funds raised.

Alicia and Thanksgiving

“We serve the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies, bread, and pie. The meal is completely free, but we ask for a free-will donation. We then donate all funds to the Sebeka food shelf – our church usually does a matching donation, as well. We generally serve about 200 meals that day. We ask, but don’t require, that those wanting a meal to call the church ahead of time to ‘reserve’ a meal, so we can plan as best as possible how much food we’ll need.” – Alicia Ahrendt

While discussing the dinner, Alicia was all glee! She remarked how this was one of her favorite days of the year. Church and cooking are a big part of her life, so the day brings all the things she loves together with peace toward others as the ultimate goal. “I love that we can donate to the food shelf, which is always needing funds to continue serving the community,” explained Alicia

COVID-19 won’t stop us!

Living our values

Organizers opted for take-out and delivery during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed plans for organizers in 2020 and 2021. However, they still delivered meals, but it wasn’t the same as inviting community members for an evening of fellowship, good company, and delicious food. Alicia and the team have been hustling to get everything ready for their first in-person dinner in two years.

Community and living our values

Alicia is going above and beyond for her community. Tri-County Health Care celebrates the efforts of those who care for our patients and extend their kindness to their neighbors. She embodies living our values daily in the office, church, and home. Tri-County Health Care will be donating to the Thanksgiving Dinner in honor of her and the parishioners of her church. All funds go to help curb hunger in the Sebeka community.

For donations

The Thanksgiving Day meal runs from noon to 2 p.m. Food items can be given directly to organizers at the door. Monetary donations are submitted via check made to OSCL, with a note for Thanksgiving. Submit contributions to organizers during the dinner or mail them to:


Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church

401 2nd St SE

Sebeka, MN 56477

Medical Laboratory Week: One test at a time

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Medical Laboratory Week is a great time to observe an industry that is not well understood. Medical laboratory technicians are essential in helping providers diagnose and treat you. Here’s a sneak peek at this fascinating career and why we need laboratory technicians more than ever.

Lab staff: Your first line of defense

If you were asked what the most uncomfortable part of a clinic visit is, you might say getting your blood drawn or providing a urine sample. It’s uncomfortable and pushes privacy boundaries. Have you ever considered that without that blood draw or urine sample, your provider might not be able to help you? The information provided by your blood and urine is crucial for helping your provider create a care plan. The laboratory staff responsible for these tests are on the first line of defense against diseases and other health concerns.

A challenging but worthy career

Medical laboratory technicians (MLT), medical technologists (MT), medical laboratory scientists (MLS), phlebotomists and pathologists are the professionals that make up the Tri-County Health Care laboratory team. Despite the importance of the MLT profession, there is a shortage of MLTs locally and across the United States. According to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, the MLT workforce shortage is reaching a crisis level. An aging workforce, more demand for laboratory services, advancing laboratory technology, and a low number of MLT graduates each year contribute to the problem. Enrollment and graduation numbers are decreasing, and the workforce trend is not enough to keep up with demand. This career field typically requires an associate degree.

The lab department performs a wide variety of tests and supports hospital staff

Cindy Kube-Parks, Tri-County Health Care Medical Lab Technician

Putting the patient first

Though laboratory staff typically work behind the scenes, they do collect blood and samples from patients. They take special care to make sure patients know exactly what’s happening.

Cindy Kube-Parks, a Medical Lab Technician, has worked at Tri-County Health Care for almost 30 years. Cindy takes pride in her work and being able to give vital test results to providers. “I like the people and the customers we serve,” said Cindy when asked about her position in the laboratory.  She hopes the week-long observance will draw some much-needed attention to the profession.

Detecting COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on every sector of our country.  Laboratory staff are on the frontline fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous changes occurred to keep them protected when coming face to face with patients potentially infected with COVID-19.

When shadowing Cindy, she showed off the process of testing samples for COVID-19 on the Abbott ID Now instrument. Within 15 minutes, Cindy determined the results and entered them into the electronic medical record.  There are seven testing devices in the hospital laboratory, and the satellite laboratories each have two COVID-19 testing devices. The laboratory staff tests dozens of COVID-19 specimens daily.

Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager at Tri-County Health Care.

Joyelle Hill, Tri-County Health Care Laboratory Manager

COVID-19 has greatly impacted the laboratory with supply shortages.  Around the world, medical staff are suffering from a lack of resources.  Cindy and the rest of the team have made several concessions to continue providing top-tier diagnostic testing to the Tri-County Health Care system. Joyelle Hill, Laboratory Manager, commented on maintaining a high level of care under the worst possible circumstances. Joyelle praised her team for the great effort during this uncertain time.

The laboratory

Joyelle also stated just how lucky Tri-County Health Care is as an organization. The hospital lab is capable of a wide variety of testing and has some of the best and brightest laboratorians. “The laboratory staff members have become an extended family to me,” said Joyelle.

A health care system wouldn’t be possible without laboratory staff. According to Joyelle, the laboratory profession is not well known or understood. Doctors and nurses are often the ones seen but are not solely responsible for each diagnosis. Often it is a team effort requiring good science executed behind closed doors. “The laboratory department is an essential part of the healthcare system,” said Joyelle.

We need you!

Right now, there is a shortage of medical laboratory technicians. Due to vacancies, retirements and relocations, there is a need for four full-time laboratory technicians at Tri-County Health Care. Please visit our Careers page to review current vacancies. Follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.

Happy Fourth of July!

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For those of you planning to celebrate this holiday weekend outside in the sun or on the lake, take a peek at some tips for staying safe while having fun.


As families and friends gather, great food and goodies are bound to be included. But while you enjoy a leisurely day out in the sun and heat, be mindful of how long your food has been sitting out.Children at Fourth of July picnic

The Food and Drug Administration states that a good rule of thumb is not to let food sit out in the danger zone for more than two hours. The danger zone is the window between 40 and 140 degrees. Also, if the temperature outside is 90 degrees or hotter, never let food sit out longer than an hour. Failing to do so allows bacteria to multiply quickly and could cause foodborne illness.

Other food tips by the FDA:

  • Store cold food at or below 40 degrees; store hot food at or above 140 degrees
  • Pack meat, poultry and seafood while still frozen
  • Pack beverages and perishable food in separate coolers
  • Try to limit the number of times the cooler is opened
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked or prepared foods
  • Place serving dishes of salads or desserts directly on ice


Lately, the days have been warm, and the sun has been strong (albeit with some rain here and there), so as you spend time outside, be sure to practice sun safety. The sun gives off harmful radiation called ultraviolet rays, and the longer you stay in the sun, the more susceptible you are to skin damage and to dangerous skin cancer.

Follow these tips to protect your skin:

  • Cover exposed skin with sunglasses, hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when possible.
  • Search out shady areas, and don’t spend too much time in direct sunlight. Remember that sand and water can reflect sunlight and increase UV radiation.
  • Use a waterproof broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. The higher, the better. Reapply it often if you spend a long day outside or in the water.
  • If your kids love exploring outside, keep a close eye on them and limit the time they spend in the sun. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight. You can also promote safe habits by setting a positive example with your own actions.

A photo of a USA stars and stripes flag with sparklers in the foreground representing the 4th of July.


Fireworks are an Independence Day staple, a spectacular display that Americans across the nation use to celebrate. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, they are not safe in the hands of consumers. Instead, it recommends that if you would like to see fireworks, you should attend a show coordinated by experts.

But if you are planning to set off your own fireworks, exercise extreme caution. The NFPA reports that fireworks cause nearly 18,500 fires each year, as well as thousands of injuries. Sparklers alone account for almost one-quarter of emergency room injuries caused by fireworks, as they are hot enough (1200 degrees) to inflict third-degree burns. Read all instructions carefully and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Finally, don’t forget to keep an eye on your little ones if you attend events where fireworks are used.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!