Conair Invests in a Healthy Community

Piovan/Conair Vice President of Operations Robert Puleo

Among the many manufacturing plants stretching along the riverfront on Allegheny Boulevard in Franklin is a company making a real impact for patients at UPMC Northwest. Piovan North America, formerly known as IPEG and more commonly referred to as Conair, makes charitable giving a priority.

At their Franklin plant, the approximately 160 employees of Piovan/Conair manufacture auxiliary equipment for the plastics industry. The plant has been operating in Franklin since the 1950s and recently became part of PiovanGroup, an Italian company and a global leader in the design and manufacture of industrial automation systems for the storage, conveying, and processing of plastics and various other products. The Group is a multinational corporation with 14 production plants and more than 2,000 employees worldwide.

Piovan/Conair donates to a variety of nonprofit organizations in the Venango County area, including the Northwest Hospital Foundation. Robert Puleo, Vice President of Operations, summed up the company’s approach to philanthropy. “At Conair, we believe in strengthening our local community by supporting vital institutions like the Northwest Hospital Foundation,” he said. “Together, we ensure a committed future by enhancing healthcare services for everyone in the local region.”

The company’s contributions to the Foundation help fund state-of-the-art medical technology and equipment which allow UPMC Northwest to provide advanced patient care transcending the typical capabilities of a small, rural hospital. With the support of Piovan/Conair and many other donors, over $1 million has been invested in upgrading surgical technology and patient care equipment in the past five years.

By empowering UPMC Northwest in providing top-notch care, Piovan/Conair upholds the health and well-being of their employees and employees’ families. A quality local hospital helps the company attract and retain workers in addition to benefitting the community as a whole.

“We have a great workforce here,” said Mr. Puleo. “As our business continues to grow, we embrace opportunities to give back to the place we all call home. We are proud to join the Northwest Hospital Foundation in their efforts to make our hospital the best it can be.”

Fitness Station Opens at UPMC Northwest

Kelly Smerker, pharmacy manager at UPMC Northwest, demonstrates how to access workout-related features using the QR code and free mobile app

The Northwest Hospital Foundation is pleased to announce the opening of a new outdoor fitness station at UPMC Northwest.  This exciting addition aims to promote health and wellness in the community, providing an inclusive space for teens and adults to engage in physical activity.  It also allows the public to take advantage of more workout options in addition to the existing walking trail.

Located conveniently behind the pavilion along the walking trail, the fitness station features ten units of state-of-the-art exercise equipment, three of which are wheelchair accessible.  Signs include a QR code for downloading a free app to access workout-related features showing how to use each exercise machine.  The app includes workout demos, help creating exercise routines and assists with logging progress.

The initiative reflects the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to fostering a healthier community by encouraging outdoor physical activity.

“We are excited to provide this new, free of charge resource for our community,” said Foundation Executive Director, Theresa Edder.  “The fitness station is designed to be inclusive and accessible, encouraging all community members to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives.”

The Foundation wishes to thank the Laura M. Smedley Trust, United Way of Venango County, UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Northwest, Dr. & Mrs. Arthur William Phillips Charitable Trust, and the UPMC Northwest Medical Staff for their generous contributions.

For more information about the Northwest Hospital Foundation or to contribute to this project, please visit or contact Theresa Edder, Executive Director by calling 814-676-7145 or emailing

Stephanie Brackbill Gives Back

Stephanie Brackbill is there for people in their time of need. As the Palliative Nurse Navigator at UPMC Northwest, she cares for patients with chronic illness or terminal diagnoses. Her role is to bring these patients comfort by assisting with symptom management, advanced care planning, diagnosis support, and end-of-life care. Her job is deeply personal and impactful for patients and their families.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Brackbill

Working at UPMC Northwest, Stephanie experiences firsthand everything the Northwest Hospital Foundation does on behalf of patients. She is active in these efforts through her ongoing payroll donation to the Patient Hardship Fund. This fund helps underinsured or uninsured patients with expenses related to their care, such as durable medical equipment, prescriptions, clothing, and after-hours transportation.

Her contributions to the Patient Hardship Fund make a difference for those in difficult circumstances, sometimes even her own patients. In one case, one of her patients received a refurbished hospital bed so she could be discharged to hospice and spend precious time with her family at home. “You never know who might benefit from your donation – it could be a friend, neighbor, or family member you don’t even realize is struggling,” she said.

Another Foundation program Stephanie is passionate about is the Holiday Presents for Patients program which provides small gifts to inpatients at UPMC Northwest on holidays. She knows how difficult holidays are for patients who have no family or friends to visit them in the hospital. She said, “Something as small as bringing them a flower and wishing them a happy holiday can remind them that they are cared for and remembered in their time of crisis. They see that someone is thinking of them at a time when they are feeling lonely and isolated.”

As Stephanie grows her family here in our region, she plans to continue caring for her patients both as a UPMC Northwest employee and donor to the Northwest Hospital Foundation. “Giving back is something that’s very important to me. We have to work together to meet the healthcare needs of our community,” she said.

Donna Fletcher Turns Grief Into Action

Photo courtesy Donna Fletcher

When Ronald and Donna Fletcher tied the knot in 1997, they never expected their time together would be cut short by cancer. Ron and Donna’s love story began at Joy Manufacturing, where Ron, a skilled manufacturing engineer, and Donna, a dedicated professional in human resources, first crossed paths.

In the year of their 25th anniversary, Ron was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer which affected his head and neck. Despite fighting hard, Ron lost his battle in 2023 at the age of 80.

Donna now honors Ron’s memory by giving back to the hospital that cared for him. She wants to ensure other patients receive the same high standard of care and personal attention Ron did in his last months. “We were fortunate to have access to some of the best oncological care in the country right here in Venango County,” she said. “The staff at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Northwest is unmatched. They made our experience very comfortable.”

Before Ron’s passing, they were both supporters of the Northwest Hospital Foundation. Donna now pays forward her gratitude and honors Ron’s life by giving to the Foundation in his memory. She said, “I give to make sure the things that were provided to him continue to be provided to others. It keeps his memory alive.”

She is particularly passionate about ensuring the latest technology is available for patients, whether that’s state-of-the-art surgical equipment or amenities like cooling caps which may help chemotherapy patients prevent hair loss. “We are lucky to have such talented medical practitioners here. It’s important to make sure they have access to the latest technology so they can put their skills to use treating patients,” she said.

These days Donna is turning her grief into action to help others. She serves on multiple boards, including the Foundation’s Corporation Board, in addition to being the Deputy Mayor of Franklin. She knows her efforts make a difference in the lives of so many in our community.

“When you give, you put good back into the world. Ron lives on through the good we do at the hospital.”

Philanthropy Takes Center Stage for Zachary Covington


Photo courtesy Zachary Covington

Zachary Covington is no stranger to public service. In addition to his nearly ten years as Executive Director of the Barrow-Civic Theatre in Franklin, he is an active member of the Franklin Rotary Club, assistant music director of the Clarion First United Methodist Church, and director of the Clarion Community Choir. Little do most know, however, he is also a proud supporter of the Northwest Hospital Foundation.

Zach first heard about the Foundation when he was invited to join the Corporation Board in 2018. As a Corporator, he learned about the many ways the Foundation supports UPMC Northwest. Local healthcare became personal for him in 2019 when he underwent emergency surgery for a broken leg. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jacob Smith went above and beyond for Zach, saving his leg right here at UPMC Northwest.

His personal connection to the hospital does not stop there. As Franklin Rotary Peace Chair, he was responsible for the installation and dedication of a peace pole during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Located along the walking trail near the pavilion, the peace pole was dedicated to hospital staff to show appreciation for their efforts. Zach also brought his musical talents to UPMC Northwest at the 2023 Light Up Night Kick-Off where he helped coordinate local high school choir performances in the hospital lobby.

Supporting the Foundation is important to Zach because he sees how his gifts directly benefit his family, friends, and neighbors. “It is essential to have quality care here in Venango County. Most people in our community cannot afford to make the trip to Erie or Pittsburgh in an emergency or for routine procedures. Our hospital saves lives,” Zach said.

He is continually impressed by the high quality of care available at UPMC Northwest thanks in part to the Northwest Hospital Foundation. “The Foundation is very transparent, responsible, and empathetic in how they allocate donor funds. It’s all about improving the quality of life for patients,” he said.

“I know I don’t have to give a huge amount to make a difference for others in my community. Every gift matters.”

Hospital Foundation and OBGYNs Bring New Technology to UPMC Northwest

In the realm of gynecological surgery, advancements in technology continue to enhance the safety and efficacy of procedures. One notable development is the utilization of the LigaSure Generator for the removal of fallopian tubes during c-section deliveries or for postpartum sterilization immediately after vaginal delivery. Historically, surgical sterilization has been a bilateral partial salpingectomy or tubal ligation, which means that only a portion of the fallopian tube is removed. This technology allows the surgeon to remove both fallopian tubes safely and completely by sealing tissues and preventing excessive bleeding. Full removal of the fallopian tubes, or total bilateral salpingectomy, reduces a patient’s risk of ovarian cancer by approximately 65% and provides improved contraceptive rates compared to historic tubal ligations. This innovative technology is now in use at UPMC Northwest thanks to two new OBGYNs and the Northwest Hospital Foundation.

Emily Carbaugh, MD and Kristin Romutis, MD joined the UPMC Northwest medical staff last September. They both completed their medical residency at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh and specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. Drs. Carbaugh and Romutis deliver babies and perform surgeries at UPMC Northwest and see patients at their physician offices in Clarion and Franklin.

In their residencies, the doctors trained and practiced in using the LigaSure Generator to perform postpartum bilateral salpingectomies for sterilization. With the Northwest Hospital Foundation’s donation of this device for the Family Birthing Center, Drs. Carbaugh and Romutis can apply the state-of-the-art skills they learned in residency to treating patients here in Venango County.

“It allows us to perform two procedures in one, the delivery and the bilateral salpingectomy, so it reduces risk of complications and prevents the patient from needing to have a second surgery,” said Dr. Carbaugh. “This technology allows us to be at the forefront of providing this service.”

Dr. Romutis added, “Patients are getting preferred care every time because we have a safe device to do it. We are very grateful to the Foundation for equipping us to provide the best possible care for women and families.”

For more information about the Northwest Hospital Foundation, please visit or contact Theresa Edder, Executive Director by calling 814-676-7145 or emailing

From Harness Maker to Modern Day Philanthropist

Photo of State St. in Oil City, circa 1915-1918. Levi Newsome’s saddle and harness shop was located at 109 State St. Photo courtesy of Oil City Library.

Harness maker Levi Newsome, Jr. died in 1967.

This year, he purchased 36 new patient recliners for UPMC Northwest.

Born in 1881 in Oil City, Levi Jr. was the son of Levi Newsome, Sr. and Mary Newsome. Levi Sr. was a well-known saddler and harness maker who moved to Oil City in 1862 and established a harness shop on State Street. After his father’s death in 1903, Levi Jr. took over management of the business. His mother Mary’s passing in 1926 was the impetus for Levi to establish a trust for the maintenance of a room at the Oil City Hospital in her memory.

Oil City and Franklin Hospitals merged in 1992 and became part of UPMC in 2001. In 2003, the newly built hospital, UPMC Northwest, opened its doors. Throughout these changes, the Levi Newsome Trust has continued to ensure the highest quality in our hospital’s patient rooms. It most recently funded the purchase of new recliners to replace those missing or damaged in rooms across four units.

UPMC Northwest maintenance employees Ryan Beichner and Greg Dehner adjust one of the new recliners purchased by the Levi Newsome Trust.

Recliners provide a comfortable place for patients and visitors to rest during their hospital stay or visit. Being in the hospital can be stressful, but homey touches like reclining chairs in patient rooms make it a little less so. Levi Newsome’s fund provides for amenities like these that improve the patient and visitor experience and foster physical and emotional wellbeing.

Though Levi died 57 years ago, his legacy lives on in the patient rooms at UPMC Northwest. Patients and visitors will relax and recuperate in the chairs he purchased for many years to come, finding hope and healing together in our hospital.

Just like Levi, you can leave your legacy by making a planned gift to the Northwest Hospital Foundation. Making a bequest in your will, naming Northwest Hospital Foundation as a beneficiary on your retirement account, or creating a charitable remainder trust costs you nothing today and makes all the difference tomorrow.

For more information about making a planned gift, please contact Executive Director Theresa Edder at or 814.676.7145.

Archives by Month:

Archives by Subject:

Archives by Year:

  • 2024
  • 2023
  • 2022
  • 2021
  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015