The Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association has existed for 51 years; Janice White has been there for 50

photo by: Casey Waniska

Janice White is pictured outside the Visiting Nurses Association Community Health Facility, 200 Maine St., on May 22.

In 1970, Janice White secured a part-time job at the Visiting Nurses Association as a junior at Lawrence High School. She needed to fulfill a requirement of the job training program of which she was part. Her office education adviser, Mary Gauthier, expressed concern that the small, new nonprofit White had joined might not last.

On Thursday, White celebrated her 50th work anniversary at the 51-year-old Douglas County nonprofit.

White and Gauthier, who have stayed in touch for the past 50 years, laughed about White’s long career at the VNA earlier this year at Gauthier’s 95th birthday party.

“She just laughed and she said, ‘I just never in my life thought that would happen,'” White said. Not only did Gauthier not expect the nonprofit to make it, White said, she also didn’t anticipate that White would spend her whole career there.

“She’s our historian,” said VNA CEO Cynthia Lewis, who has been with the organization since 2008. “If I want to know anything about VNA’s history, all I have to do is ask Janice because more often than not she can remember.”

White isn’t sure she had an official job title when she began working part time at the VNA at the age of 16. “I guess I was a receptionist,” White noted. She typed. She answered phones. She filed. She even modeled for a photo shoot for the nonprofit, pretending she was learning how to draw insulin.

photo by: Contributed Photo

Janice White, left, with LaVonne Donihue, the second director of the Visiting Nurses Association. White and Donihue were posing for a photo shoot in 1970 in which Donihue was “teaching” White how to draw insulin from the bottle.

After graduating high school, White stayed on full time. Over the years, she’s been an administrative assistant, a receptionist, a bookkeeper and even held a short stint with IT. For the last 20 years or so, White has been the human resources manager. She said there’s always been something new to learn.

“When I get here it energizes me. I find it challenging. Sometimes I find it frustrating … I think it’s because it’s never the same day twice in a row,” she said.

Friends have, at times, asked White why she hasn’t sought out other job opportunities elsewhere. White said she’s not sure any other job would be as fulfilling. Both her mom and dad have used the VNA’s services, White said, so she has “learned firsthand what VNA does for patients.”

“If I didn’t believe in our mission, I wouldn’t have stayed,” she said.

photo by: Contributed Photo

From left, Joyce Givechi, Janice White, and Mary Hane at the ground breaking of the Community Health Facility on October 9, 1997.

Over the years, White thought about going to nursing school, but ultimately decided that an administrative support role was where she fit best, due to her love for working with staff members and lack of a strong stomach.

“I can still help us meet our mission even if I’m not out providing care to our patients,” White said. “I am still part of providing this care to our community.”

Lewis said White is known for her open ear and objective, unbiased approach.

“She’s often a sounding board for me,” Lewis said.

In her 50 years, White said some of the most impactful things she’s learned on the job — the importance of patience and kindness — have come from answering the phones. It’s important for people to know someone is listening, White said.

“We may be the only person that they talk to all day,” White said. “We need to put a smile on our voice … let them feel like they are the most important call of the day.”

photo by: Contributed Photo

Janice White, right, pictured with Mary Gauthier at the employee appreciation luncheon in May, 1996. Gauthier was White’s advisor in high school, and later became a board member for the Visiting Nurses Association.

The VNA has been good to White, she said. She’s marched in parades, been to company picnics and square dance nights, and there was flexibility in her schedule. She worked full time while raising a family, but was able to adjust her schedule in order to attend sporting and school events. She was able to take some time off to care for her parents when they were ill, and to be with her sister as she was dying.

“It doesn’t just take,” White said of the job. “It gives back to me too.”

One of White’s favorite memories from her time at the VNA was celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary. Many gold decorations were used to commemorate the occasion, as gold is the traditional color for a 50th anniversary.

On Thursday morning, White received a gold surprise of her own. In addition to a small luncheon and a yard card celebrating her 50 years, gold balloons and ribbons filled White’s office.

White is following right in the tracks of the VNA’s milestones, and she’s not stopping yet. The company’s historian has no immediate plans to retire. She’ll remain a steadfast cornerstone of the organization, adapting and learning as the times change, as she has since 1970.

photo by: Casey Waniska

Janice White poses with a yard card outside of the Visiting Nurses Association on May 28, her 50th work anniversary.


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