Women’s History Month: Celebrating Leaders Past & Present
Since its founding in 1928, PioneerCare has faithfully served its mission and advanced as an organization, thanks to talented women in top leadership roles. The stories of these three women are taken from distinctly different chapters of Pioneer’s history, demonstrating a vigilant focus on mission while adapting to change.
Hilda O. Slind began as Pioneer’s first superintendent, when Pioneer opened its doors on October 7, 1928, welcoming the first eleven people who came to the nursing home as residents. She was hired by Pioneer’s board of directors offering her a starting salary of $100 per month.
“There are 11 old people in the home at present. Quite a number have applied for admission but do not wish to move during the winter. Temporary accommodations can be given to quite a number in the winter,” wrote the Fergus Falls Daily Journal on December 8, 1928.
Hilda initiated interest in starting a Ladies’ Aide society to benefit Pioneer. The Sunshine Society held its first organizational meeting on June 26, 1929. Members were to pay monthly dues of 15 cents and prepare at least one article to be sold at the fall fundraising sale. Contributions provided much needed items for physical and spiritual needs of residents. The Sunshine Society continues to this day, coordinated by the PioneerCare Auxiliary.
Lillian Saure joined Pioneer as Administrator at the age of 56. Before taking the position, Lillian served on Pioneer’s board of directors. She was the first Pioneer administrator to be licensed by the State of Minnesota, a new requirement at the time, and served in that capacity from 1965 to 1975. As American society increasingly called on nursing homes to provide a more medical-based model of care, Lillian led the transition at Pioneer. The nursing home purchased its first hospital-type beds in 1966. Pioneer was licensed for 81 beds, including 47 nursing care and 34 boarding care residents in 1968.
With Lillian at the helm as administrator, the Pioneer 100 group was formed in 1970 to raise funds for Pioneer to defray ever increasing operating costs and pay down a loan from an earlier construction project.
By careful management and strong community support, Pioneer was able to expand further in the 1970s during Lillian’s tenure. Construction was completed on Pioneer Home’s south wing in 1971, adding 33 private rooms. The project also included a new chapel, sunroom, dining room, administrative offices, and front lobby.
Sara Watkins joined PioneerCare in the fall of 2009 as Director of Nursing. Her career in aging services goes back to high school in Clinton, Minnesota, where she served as a nurse aide. She completed the LPN and RN programs at M State-Fergus Falls and earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Sara earned her licensure as a Nursing Home Administrator and became PioneerCare Center’s administrator in December 2014. She continues in that leadership role today.
In over 12 years with Pioneer, Sara has responded to change and helped lead the organization forward. Sara was deeply involved in the move from the original nursing home building to its current location at 1131 Mabelle Avenue. Since then, she’s helped lead the change to a household model of care and most recently, rose to the challenge of leading PioneerCare through a pandemic with direct impact on its residents, their families, and staff.
“Looking forward to serving the community in the next 90 years, PioneerCare will continue to witness and experience change within and outside of Pioneer’s walls,” Sara wrote in a piece for Pioneer. “Change is exciting. But constants in our future include our remarkable, caring staff, and unfaltering community support.”