Honored for their shine around people

Alissa Newham, who works at the Ecumen senior living facility in North Branch, is the first recipient of the Kristina Pinna Award. Pinna, at just 20 years old, died in a tragic car crash about a year ago, but her legacy lives on through the annual award named in her honor. Presenting the award last week was new Ecumen Administrator Nathan Johnson. Photo by Jon Tatting

Alissa Newham, who works at the Ecumen senior living facility in North Branch, is the first recipient of the Kristina Pinna Award. Pinna, at just 20 years old, died in a tragic car crash about a year ago, but her legacy lives on through the annual award named in her honor. Presenting the award last week was new Ecumen Administrator Nathan Johnson. Photo by Jon Tatting

Ecumen last week honored two young women: one whose life was abruptly taken away and another who is continuing her legacy of making a difference at the senior living facility in North Branch.

Alissa Newham received the first Kristina Pinna Award in front of residents, fellow staffers and student volunteers on Friday afternoon. Presenting the honor was new Ecumen Administrator Nathan Johnson.

“I feel pretty proud,” said Newham, a dietitian who just completed her first year at the senior living community. “I feel very honored.”

With perfect attendance on the job, Newham helps others when she is ahead in serving food. She cleans and does extra cleaning jobs around the kitchen. She helps dish up food when the cooks are busy, said Johnson, reading from a co-worker’s nomination letter.

Alissa is a team player and encourages co-workers to do well in their jobs. She enjoys what she is doing and helps others feel they belong here. It’s the little things, from sharing a joke to commenting on how others look, that also show how Alissa goes above and beyond her normal job duties, he continued.

That co-worker was Elizabeth Fisk, who emphasized how Newham encouraged her, helped her in her own job duties when the pressure was on, such as serving breakfast on time for the residents.

“She makes the most out of the people she works with,” Fisk continued. “I enjoy her companionship, smile, laughter and the ‘there you go’ or ‘you did it’ comments. She trained me in…when I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I love working with her, and that is why I am nominating her for the Kristina Pinna Award.”

Kristina Pinna

Kristina Pinna

The award is named after Kristina Ann Pinna, from North Branch, who was just 20 years old when she was killed in a crash involving three other vehicles during morning rush hour Sept. 1, 2011, in a construction zone on Interstate 35E at Lino Lakes. Surviving the collision was her mother, Debra A. Hildebrand, who was not able to attend last week’s ceremony at Ecumen.

Of those who were on hand was Matt Lattimore, a social studies teacher at North Branch Area High School, along with students volunteering under the Student Community Involvement Program.

Lattimore remembers Pinna as a caring person and terrific student. And he can see why her legacy will live on for years to come through an award that recognizes her contributions at Ecumen North Branch.

“She was a wonderful person, a great student,” he said. “She was quiet, but she shined around people.”

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