Subscribe for 33¢ / day

VALPARAISO — Beth Wrobel and Joanne Urschel have several things in common.

Both love their community. Both are in awe of the people with whom they work and volunteer.

Both are also being honored tonight during the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce's Salute to Leadership event at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

Wrobel has been named the 2017 Distinguished Community Leader, and Urshel will be presented the 2017 Legacy of Service award.

Beth Wrobel

"I was so surprised. There are such good leaders here in this community. To be picked out to be recognized in this community makes it even more humbling," said Wrobel, CEO of HealthLinc Inc., about receiving the recognition.

The Distinguished Community Leader award is the highest recognition given by the chamber on an individual. It is presented to a person who demonstrates leadership, is successful in promoting and developing business, involved in the community and enhances its quality of life.

Wrobel almost stumbled upon her role as the leader of the health care group, which operates 10 clinics in five counties and last year saw 27,000 individuals and had 110,000 patient visits.

A nearly 22-year employee of NIPSCO as a mechanical engineer, she left that job to help care for her father, who was diagnosed with cancer.

After his death, she said, and taking some time off, she began to pursue her MBA at Valparaiso University. It was there she ran into an acquaintance who asked her if she'd be interested in running Hilltop Community Health Center, later HealthLinc.

Wrobel said her job with NIPSCO prepared her for the job in health care.

"It taught me a lot, including how to work with different people. I can't take care of the patients, but I can hire people to take care of the patients," she said, adding the recognition shouldn't be just for her, but for the 290 employees who bring quality health care to those coming to the clinic.

Joanne Urschel

Urschel was just a teenager when she began her volunteering career helping with programming at Valparaiso city parks nearly 60 years ago.

"My family had always been involved. We grew up with parents who were giving," Urschel said, adding their philosophy was "if you can, you help."

Urschel's years of volunteering have earned her the Legacy of Service award recognizing people who have, over the course of time or in an extraordinary circumstance, given service to the community beyond what is expected.

"I was very surprised," Urschel said about the award. "It gives you a wonderful feeling to help people. None of us get to where we are on our own. Everyone has something to give."

Urschel went back to college at age 29, going on to earn a bachelor's, master's and PhD. She spent four years at a therapist at Valparaiso University and taught psychology and gender studies at Indiana University Northwest and Purdue University North Central.

Even with raising two children, Urschel volunteered, from the local PTA to being a guild lady and Girl Scout leader. She has also been a facilitator of Parents Anonymous and volunteer for the Prevent Child Abuse Porter County. She is currently board chair for both The Caring Place and the Porter County Museum and active in Sparking the Arts and the Women's Fund of Porter County.

"I can't imagine not volunteering someplace. It keeps you young," she said, advising those interested in volunteering to "find the fit, get the passion and see that you are making a difference."


Porter County reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for more than 38 years, including 23 years with The Times. She covers municipal and school government in Valparaiso and Portage.