Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – Melba Perez-Berguno couldn’t have had a better birthday.

On the same day she recently celebrated her 53rd birthday, the River Parishes Hospital social worker received a personal phone call from LifePoint Hospital’s CEO Bill Carpenter, who informed her she had just been voted the national winner of the 2008 Mercy Award.

Berguno had been selected the winner of the RPH Mercy Award, given to one employee at each of LifePoint’s health care facilities, and then was qualified to be among those in the running for the national honor. There were a total of 47 health caregivers nationally at LifePoint facilities who were in the running for the national award.

The Mercy Award is given in honor of the founding CEO of the company. Scott Mercy died in an airplane accident and was known for a spirit of giving, staying healthy and getting involved in worthy causes.

Berguno was picked as the RPH representative for the honor due to her work attitude and ethic, and her involvement in many St. John Parish charitable events and activities.

However she admitted that even a week after being informed that she was selected the national winner, she was still “floating on air.”

“It’s really hard to find words to explain what this means to me,” Berguno said. “But I think it shows that when you allow God to shine through your life to help other people, and when you do the right thing, it really pays off.”

Berguno will receive a cash award of $5,000 for winning the national award, and be honored at a special convention in Chicago, Ill. on June 18.

  Berguno said she was called by Carpenter in a bit of a trick by River Parishes CEO Charlotte Dupré and other employees. The day of the call, she was home taking care of her husband, who had just had surgery.

“They kept calling me from the hospital to say Charlotte needed me up there for something, but I also had a number of appointments in New Orleans that I couldn’t change,” she said.

The next thing she knew, Berguno was surprised by Dupré and other employees and friends from the hospital showing up at her house with a cake and flowers, supposedly to celebrate her birthday.

“I remember thinking at first that I must really be special, for them to come all the way to my house to celebrate my birthday,” she recalled.

Once in her house, Dupré received a phone call, but then handed the phone to Berguno, who was suddenly talking with LifePoint CEO Carpenter.

“We just small talked for a few minutes, then he said I had won the national award. I remember feeling like I was floating in the air,” she said. “This was the most wonderful birthday I had in 53 years.”

Dupré said that the hospital couldn’t have had a better representative from St. John, and that Berguno fit the award perfectly.

“I’ve only been here nine months, but even in that time, I have seen what an impressive person Melba is. And it’s not just what she does here for us,” Dupré said. “LifePoint couldn’t have had a better representative in the company for this award.”

Berguno is involved in many charitable and civic groups, giving to others as part of her life. She is involved with “Reach to Recovery,” a volunteer organization with the American Cancer Society, is on the board of St. John Association of Retarded Citizens, is active with the Cub Scouts, works as a volunteer with the Auxiliary of Gideon’s International to distribute Bibles, works in the student ministry at her church First Baptist of LaPlace, helped extensively with the Hurricane Katrina recovery work, and tutors others in Spanish.

Berguno has been involved in social work for 30 years, and joined River Parishes Hospital in 2003.