MIDDLEPORT – Two associates at Fruth Pharmacy in Middleport were honored by the company last week after their actions potentially saved a customer’s life.
Kathy Searls and Debra Shelton teamed up after a delivery customer’s failure to answer the door and other unusual signs caught their attention. They pressed the issue until the customer was discovered hurt and trapped in their home.
Members of Fruth’s corporate office visited the Middleport store and recognized the employees for their efforts. As company president Lynne Fruth told them during the ceremony, “You have made a true difference in someone’s life and we are all so proud of you.”
Searls, a cashier and delivery associate, thought it was odd when one of her regular deliveries didn’t come to the door. She noticed several day’s worth of mail in the mailbox and the television playing inside the house, both atypical for this customer.
“I just knew something was wrong, so I talked to Debra (Shelton) to see if we could get a hold of someone,” Searls said.
Shelton, a pharmacy technician, was familiar with the customer from previous employment, and the two Fruth associates sought out known friends and eventually contacted the landlord. The customer was discovered injured in the bathtub, unable to call for help for several days.
“For some elderly folks, delivery people may be the only ones they see regularly,“ Shelton pointed out. “It’s just because Kathy cared and noticed.”
Pharmacist Roz Roush quietly informed Fruth’s Human Resources director, Teresa Stapleton, of her coworker’s quick thinking and dedication.
“It just spoke to the value of knowing people personally and having a relationship with patients in the area,” Roush said. “They did such a wonderful thing. I wanted more people to know.”
Fruth’s corporate officers agreed.
Searls’ and Shelton’s actions, along with other similar events in the last year involving Fruth employees taking urgent medical action on behalf of customers, prompted the upper management to create the “Red Vest Award.”
The pair were startled and then delighted when Lynne Fruth gathered the Middleport location staff and presented the pair with the newly created honor, recognizing employees who “exemplify Mr. Fruth’s legacy of giving back to the community.”
In addition to a framed document, a pin and an invitation to a company luncheon this fall where a larger ceremony will be conducted, the women were given red vests to substitute into their khaki uniform.
“We wanted the award to be visual and for people to easily see that you’ve gone above and beyond for someone’s well being,“ Fruth said. “I hope people come in and ask, ‘Why do you have such a bright vest?’”
After the ceremony, Searls and Shelton were all smiles. And while they were happy to share the story (while omitting names out of respect for patient privacy), they insisted many people would have done the same.
For Fruth, that rather summarized the spirit behind the award.
“When I think about my own family, I think we all hope someone would take that extra step if it were our loved ones in trouble,” she said.