Donna Fleck, director of support services at Akron Children’s, has always embraced challenges and used them to better herself and those around her. In high school, she competed in baton twirling competitions, earning trophies while making friends and getting exercise. As a registered dietitian, Donna worked full time, taught at a university and ran a private practice. It was as Akron Children’s support services director that Donna found her niche as a manager and motivator, crediting her success to the creative, talented staff with whom she worked.
After 31 years at Children’s, Donna retires on May 9. She looks forward to cooking Sunday dinners for her family, spending time with her grandchildren and traveling.
What brought you to Children’s?
I networked with a food services professionals group where I met Sue Monsell, the previous support services director. I was looking for a new challenge and Sue hired me for Children’s eating disorders program. I had only worked with adults, never children, but saw this opportunity as an investment in my future.
What was going on in your life then?
I lived with my husband and daughter in North Canton. I was an assistant director in Timken Mercy Hospital’s food and nutrition department.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I spent my first 16 years with the eating disorders program as a registered dietitian. I liked working with children and teens and developed activities to help them with their food issues. For instance, I did cooking classes or devised ways to get kids to touch foods they didn’t like. After all, if they won’t touch a food, they won’t eat it. I also worked with teens preparing Thanksgiving dinner. During this time, I took advantage of Children’s tuition reimbursement program and earned my master’s degree at Walsh University. When Sue Monsell retired, I applied for her job, becoming support services director, which oversees food services, environmental services and linen distribution.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
With the support of an outstanding staff, our work led to patients being able to order room service, opening Kay Kafe and Smucker’s Bistro and launching the support services and food services departments at Children’s Beeghly campus. I’ve also been part of Lean Six Sigma teams whose initiatives improved support services and environmental and food services processes. Recently, my staff created a career ladder project that offers recognition and rewards to clinical dietitians for their outstanding work.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
We collaborate more and work with multidisciplinary teams. Everyone’s input is important. It’s the next step in Children’s cultural evolution; the way employees are involved in decisions.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
I like when a co-worker “gets it” and appreciates why the hospital does things the way it does in order to achieve the best results and put patients and their families first.
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
Pat O’Desky, administrative assistant, called to tell me that Bill Considine (Akron Children’s CEO emeritus) saw geese on the front lawn preventing people from walking. My first thought was, “What am I supposed to do, serve cooked goose in the café?” I thought better of it since I didn’t know her well or whether she’d appreciate my humor. Instead, I found a lawn program to redirect the geese. Another time during my first Christmas as support services director, an administrator called to ask why there were no holiday decorations. I said, “Yeah, I wondered about that,” not realizing that was my job, too!
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
Being there more for my husband and 3 grandchildren, getting to the gym and golfing with my husband on a beautiful day and winning (wishful thinking!).
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
View every interaction with patients, families and staff as if it’s a job interview. When people see you as an invested employee, they’ll seek you out for other opportunities or remember you to someone else.
What couldn’t you live without?
Ice cream and raspberries.
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
I love oldies, like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, and country music. I listen with “Alexa” when I’m cleaning.
What’s the last book you read?
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J. K. Rowling
What’s the last movie you saw?