Lovella Kelley — a 1991 graduate who had returned to higher education as an adult to earn a nursing degree — was recently presented with Newman University’s Beata Netemeyer Service Award, which is named for the first provincial of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.
The award honors alumni who have given outstanding service to humanity, exemplifying the mission and values of Newman by living in a state of critical consciousness, respecting dignity, honoring integrity and embracing all humanity in their personal and professional life.
Kelley’s nominator (her grandson, Cody Jenkins) said her commitment and dedication to her family, parish, God and her community have always been inspirational, adding that she is a champion with unending compassion.
Jenkins is also a Newman nursing graduate and is constantly inspired by his grandmother.
“To this day, at 80, this woman is out of her house every day of the week volunteering for one organization or another,” he said in his nomination. “Her passion in life is to help others.”
At the Newman awards banquet, Kelley wore one of her favorite hats — pink with folded ribbons — and was surrounded by “her biggest achievements of all.”
“I have six children and they are all here tonight,” she said in her speech. “One lives in Boston, one in Washington, D.C., another in Maryland, Wichita, Hutch and one in Lawrence.”
A nontraditional path
Kelley said she has always been a caregiver. At 10, she helped care for her grandfather after he had a stroke, and at 16 she helped raise her younger siblings after health issues ensued following the birth of her mother’s last child.
This led Kelley to feel she was called to become a nurse. When she learned that Newman was offering its program in her hometown using the Hutchinson Community College campus, she enrolled. She enjoyed being able to work at her own pace in the program — meeting at the local college for a few class sessions — but mostly learning through VHS tapes produced by Newman.
“It was a great opportunity because I still had six kids at home and a lot of activities, and I was able to work it in,” she said. “However, I did find out one thing that when you have a whole house full of people, it’s difficult to study. So I accomplished more by spending a couple hours at McDonald’s by myself than I did at home looking at the dishes and the laundry.”
After working at Hutchinson Hospital and a local nursing home, Kelley started a home health agency and eventually became a parish health nurse.
Throughout her life, volunteering has been a priority and a passion of Kelley’s.
In 2005, she and her late husband, Ron, started the Hutchinson St. Vincent De Paul Society at Holy Cross Parish. The purpose is to assist community members in need, whether that be with food, housing and utilities, or just providing a listening ear.
“We started something called the Walk for the Poor,” she explained. “It started very small and … has just grown and grown every year. It’s amazing how people respond to the call for need when asked.”
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