A moment with: Steve Spickenreuther

Photo of Steve Spickenreuther.

Steve Spickenreuther is the Director of Mission Integration for Valley City, North Dakota and the Director of Foundation for Valley City and Lisbon, North Dakota. (CHI Mercy Health in Valley City and CHI Lisbon Health in Lisbon)

Steve joined the organization in 2007, originally as IT Supervisor for the Fargo national office before a change in both personal and professional priorities took him in new directions. In January of 2023, Steve will begin his doctoral studies in mission integration, leadership and bioethics.

Philanthropy is …
Philanthropy is the spirit of giving in an effort to help make something better than what it was when you found it.
Tell us about your background and how you came to CommonSpirit?
I am a ten year veteran of the United States Army. I earned my degree in computer networking and opened my own computer shop and it was there that I received a call from CHI asking if I could help set up their new Fargo office. Subsequently, they asked me to stay on for an additional few months and ultimately for a full time position. I started as the IT Supervisor for the Fargo national office, working on a number of programs and projects. During this time, I worked closely with the Vice President of Mission Integration in the national office who told me I would make a good Mission Director. I thought about it for a year before feeling my heart strings being pulled. I went back to school for my Master's degree in health care mission integration leadership and upon graduation, and after the merger of CHI and Dignity Health, a position opened up here at CHI Mercy Health in Valley City. It came with strings attached, and those strings were that I would also take on philanthropy.
Can you tell us about your current role?
My current role is split between mission integration and philanthropy for two facilities. Depending on the day and the challenges in front of me, that determines which hat I wear. I just came out of two galas so for about a three and a half month period it was the philanthropy hat that was being worn predominantly. Now, I’m at a point where I am spending more time working on community benefit and the community health assessment which is more on the mission side. It goes back and forth. 

What do you think is unique about our work?
I am the person that coined the term “gray collar worker” back when I was in the military. After my initial role in the infantry, I served in supply where I worked closely with the troops as well as the officers. I was that person in the middle who could work with anyone to get something done. That’s where my drive for the mission side of my work, and philanthropy, comes from … you have to be able to engage and meet people where they are to have the important conversations. We talk about white and blue collar workers, but there's a group in the middle that are gray collar workers and are absolutely necessary.

How do you see your work fulfilling the larger mission of CommonSpirit Health?
I see it really as a great marriage between these two roles. I’ve come to understand that the funds we raise and the causes and purpose behind them are so mission driven. The tie between the two is much closer than many others roles in the organization because philanthropy really is a part of mission.

It’s what we’re doing when we look at how we can provide funding and we do it in a way that engages the community. That’s the piece that is so beautiful to me because I am able to hear from people who are happy to be a part of what we’re doing and making sure the hospital stays in the community. In small communities like Valley City and Lisbon, we only have one hospital. The next closest is 60 miles away so we’re close to everyone’s hearts.
Is there a specific project or story that stands out to you?
Our mammography project [to be completed in 2023] started with “we need a mammography machine.” Then it became “Yes, we need the equipment but we also need to create an environment that is different from anything else.” The machine will be state-of-the-art, taking detection to the smallest micron but also giving the patient a hand-held controller so that she can control how much pressure is being applied and can be in control of her own experience.

We wanted a relaxing environment and that evolved the thought process to consider what other services we could offer and how we can create a truly woman-centric clinic. That full experience was supported by our recent gala. We didn’t raise enough to buy it outright, but we raised $35,000 and that is the equivalent of $3 million to a large hospital elsewhere because it is going to service the same population in the end per capita.
When do you feel best at work?
When someone in the hospital comes to me and says “Steve, can we use philanthropy funds for this project?” and I get to take it to the executive team and the foundation board and we discuss the need in the hospital and the benefit to the community and we get approval. Then we really embrace the mission and say “If we’re putting in new flooring, why don’t we paint the rooms too?” and “If we’re painting the rooms, then the crucifixes are old and should be replaced” and ultimately “Why don’t we have the Bishop come do a blessing and maybe invite the Chamber of Commerce and the media for a true celebration?” It’s those moments when the job is so rewarding because you can see that all the hard work, the meetings, the galas … this is where you know it all has a purpose. 
What have you learned through your work?
I’ve learned that to make an environment like CommonSpirit Health work as a whole it takes an army of individuals to collaborate and work toward a single goal. So many organizations have mission statements but this is an organization where I see our mission being lived out each and every day.

On the philanthropy side, I came into the role with a preconceived notion that it was going to be fundraising like we do with our scout troop. Once I was in the role I realized what the work was and what the different things are that we can do to bring in necessary funds. I just had an individual leave us $280,000 when she passed away because she wanted to give half of everything she had back to her community. When you see something like that you understand that there is so much more to what we’re each doing as individuals within this organization and we’re just a small part of it.
What would others be surprised to learn about you?
I think many people are surprised when they learn that I had a part-time job for ten years as a bouncer in a country bar.
When you leave the office, what does relaxation look like for you?
The most relaxing thing to me is being able to spend time with my family. I have an hour-long drive every day to and from work and on the way home I use the time to decompress everything that has gone on through the day so I’m not taking my work home. When I get home, I’m able to focus on family. I’m a very lucky man in that I have seven children ranging from 35 to 10. It’s so important to be able to go home and just be a dad.