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Local Woodworker’s Artwork Honors Healthcare Heroes

Over the years, work by many local artists has been displayed in the halls of Memorial Medical Center. But few pieces are as personal as the one recently donated by Springfield resident Jermaine Ward, who created a large-scale artwork honoring the efforts of MMC colleagues in the fight against COVID-19.

Ward said he was inspired to create the piece after he injured his back early in the pandemic and had to visit MMC’s Emergency Department for care. He was apprehensive because of another health issue that put him at greater risk for COVID-19, he said.

“I got to see firsthand what frontline workers were going through,” he said. “The care I received from them was phenomenal, so I wanted to do something nice for them.”

Ward, owner of Monte’s Custom Furniture, is known for his distinctive designs. The artwork he created for MMC comprises five panels featuring the hospital’s façade, portraits of healthcare workers and the organization’s logo, each assembled from carefully carved and painted wood. An inscription honors everyone who contributed to the pandemic response.

Leaders at MMC said they’re honored by Ward’s gift and his gesture of thanks. His artwork donation was accepted by Memorial Medical Center Foundation, which plans to put it on permanent display at MMC in a widely used area near the hospital’s cafeteria.

“This has been a difficult year for everyone at Memorial, and this artwork is a reminder of all the support we’ve received throughout 2020 and beyond,” said Melissa Hansen Schmadeke, executive director of the MMC Foundation. “We’re honored to share it with our entire workforce.”

Chuck Callahan, MMC president and chief executive officer, said the hospital has been the beneficiary of an outpouring of generosity throughout the pandemic.

“Since last March, we’ve been humbled by how people in the Springfield area have supported our healthcare colleagues,” he said. “Mr. Ward’s artwork shows our colleagues that the work we’ve done this year is remembered and appreciated.”

Ward, who has also donated furniture and artwork to the City of Springfield, University of Illinois Springfield and local churches, is a self-taught woodworker. His career in construction has given him the opportunity to learn many aspects of the trade, and he’s now motivated to use those skills to help the community he calls home. He is involved in several community service efforts to provide training and work experience to young people, as well as individuals who are homeless.

“People can say [healthcare workers] are appreciated,” Ward said. “But I wanted them to look up and see that they’re appreciated every time they walk past and see the art.”

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