Riverside Walter Reed Hospital Team Members Celebrate 40 Years at 2019 Service Pin Dinner

“The people here at Riverside have become my family. When you work somewhere for so long, you get close, and they truly do become your family.”

Gloucester, Va. – By the numbers, it’s clear, said Kristie Lafave.

“Often, we spend more time with our work family than our real family at home,” Lafave said, “meaning those people we work with and the places we work – and honestly, the people we do our work for – are as important in our lives as our family at home.”

That’s why for 15 years Lafave has dedicated her career to serving people as a Riverside team member working in Nutrition Services at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital.

For that dedication, Lafave was among 148 Riverside Middle Peninsula team members recently recognized for their service to the health system, the community and its health care needs for five or more years.

“I have stayed for so long, and plan to stay a lot longer, because I like my job,” Lafave said. “I like the people I work with. I like the patients I get to serve. Each day, I feel like I get to help them, whether it’s giving them a choice of what food they eat while in the hospital, talking with them or being beside them to pray.”

Collectively, Lafave and her colleagues represented 1,840 years of service, including three team members who joined Riverside 40 years ago, three who have served for 35 years, seven people who have been with Riverside for 30 years, eight who came on 25 years ago and 13 who have been there for more than two decades.

“We can get caught up in the bricks and mortar, and all the new and shiny technology, which is all important,” said Vonnie James, the Senior Director of Finance and Analytics for Riverside on the Middle Peninsula. “But what makes this place tick is the people.”

What makes people want to stay for so many years are the opportunities that Riverside affords, added Shelly Johnson, the Finance Director of Riverside Walter Reed Hospital who earned her 20-year service pin.

Riverside Walter Reed Hospital Team Members Celebrate 40 Years at 2019 Service Pin Dinner

“It’s because of Riverside that I’ve been able to have a career in my hometown for 20 years,” Johnson said. “That – being able to work and live and raise our families close to home – has always been important to me. For our patients, we are a destination hospital. For our team members, we are a place where you can make a career doing great things for the community.”

It dawned on Becca Walker, an Administrative Assistant from the Riverside Wellness and Fitness Center – Middle Peninsula, that she was 18-years-old when she first started working for Riverside.

“As I pin on 20-years, I realized that my son is now 18-years-old,” Walker said. “The people here at Riverside have become my family. When you work somewhere for so long, you get close, and they truly do become your family.”

Riverside Walter Reed Wellness Center Team Members Celebrate at 2019 Service Pin Dinner

For Catherine Blackmon, an Office Assistant for Riverside Orthopedic Specialists – Gloucester, working in health care was never something she envisioned, “but Riverside was there when I needed them,” she said, explaining that when she was laid off 10 years ago, it was Riverside who gave her a second start, a second career. “I truly love Riverside and consider them my family, always.”

Rene Welz, a Lead Tech for central supply with the surgical services department at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, serves in what she calls a critical role for patient care that few patients realize are working behind the scenes.

“Our team is responsible for cleaning and sanitizing tools and equipment for surgery,” said Welz, who has been with Riverside for 15 years. “If I feel like I’m at home in my job, I’m dedicated. Here, I feel like I’m at home, like I make a difference.”

Jennifer Salaam, a Lead Homemaker at Sanders Retirement Community on Gloucester’s Main Street who has been with Riverside for a decade, feels the same way. In fact, in her role she gets to work and be part of residents’ lives in their homes.

“By far the best part of my job is being able to interact with the residents in their homes each day and bring them little things to make them happy,” Salaam said. “My mission is to always treat each of them like I would treat my own grandmother.”

Gift Bags Presented to Riverside Walter Reed Team Members at 2019 Service Pin Dinner

Nina Otto has served as a Medical Laboratory Technician at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital because “I’ve never had any reason to work anywhere else.”

And that, combined with a sense of service she feels toward every patient that comes to the hospital for care, has been all she needed to keep going strong for Riverside for the last 30 years.


  • 60 received five-year service pins
  • 33 received 10-year service pins
  • 21 received 15-year service pins
  • 13 received 20-year service pins
  • 8 received 25-year service pins
  • 7 received 30-year service pins
  • 3 received 35-year service pins
  • 3 received 40-year service pins

Total Years of Service: 1,840

Published: February 26, 2019