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Providence foundation executive director has held various titles during her career at medical center

In her 50 years working at Milwaukie's only hospital, Lesley Townsend has held many titles, but when you ask her the role she is most proud of, she'll simply say, "community member."

Currently, Townsend serves as the executive director of the Providence Milwaukie Foundation, but her journey with the community hospital started in her teenage years when she was hired as a filing aide at Dwyer Memorial Hospital.COURTESY PHOTO: PROVIDENCE MILWAUKIE - Lesley Townsend's career at the Milwaukie medical center started in the 1980s when she was hired as a filing aide at Dwyer Memorial Hospital.

"While my first job filing records wasn't particularly exciting, I found the atmosphere of the hospital and the community of people I met truly fun and exciting," Townsend said. "It really set the foundation for the community I fell in love with and a passion for serving all who live and work here."

COURTESY PHOTO: PROVIDENCE MILWAUKIE - Lesley TownsendFrom filing aide to patient admissions to executive assistant to volunteer coordinator, Lesley took on various roles in her early years at the hospital, but central to her work was always the people — cultivating relationships, engaging the community and strengthening the hospital's mission.

When Dwyer Memorial Hospital transitioned to Providence Milwaukie Hospital in 1986, the years of community service set Townsend up for the most influential role of her career, leading a new medical foundation to raise significant funding for the hospital.

"I am so proud of the work of the Providence Milwaukie Foundation Board of Directors has achieved over the past thirty years," Townsend said. "From those early years to our current board, we have achieved so much and demonstrated how influential Providence Milwaukie Hospital is in the fabric of our community."

For nearly three decades, Townsend has been crucial in connecting the hospital to major donors and influencers in the community, with Providence Milwaukie Foundation raising millions of dollars for major hospital improvements, state-of-the art equipment, advanced training for caregivers and programs and services supporting vulnerable populations.

As health care has evolved, so too has Townsend's focus on philanthropy. She's sought to highlight how health is impacted by poverty and inequity in housing, transportation and food insecurity and has worked to bring together strategic partners in health to address the community's most pressing needs.

"Lesley's passion for this community, fostering relationships and ability to connect philanthropy with community need has been pivotal in guiding our work as an effective and successful foundation," said Mark Stehn, board president of the Providence Milwaukie Foundation. "She's challenged us to 'think outside the box' and her advocacy has guided us to serve our community in new and innovative ways."

This year, Townsend celebrates 50 years serving Providence Milwaukie Hospital. But for her, it's more than the years, the job, and the accomplishments, it's simply being part of her community.

"I love this community, all of the friendships I've made and our history together," she said. "I'm truly excited by all the possibilities that lie ahead for us."

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