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Q&A with Ginnie AbellGinnie Abell

Getting to know The Circle's new chair and her aspirations for the future

Ginnie Abell, the new chair of The Circle of Women’s Health Philanthropists, is a longtime member of The Circle’s Marie Lawson Society, signifying her 10-year commitment in support of its mission. Her passion for the health and well-being of women in our communities is matched only by her legacy of generosity and involvement in and support of Summa Health. 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Because my parents could not financially support sending me away to college, I enrolled at St. Thomas Hospital School of Nursing. That allowed me to live away from home while remaining in Akron.

After graduating, I worked in numerous departments during my first 10 years, including as an Emergency Department nurse and later as a night supervisor. When we merged with Summa Health, I directed the Infection Control and Prevention program

After I retired in 2017, I directed my energy to serving as an Oasis reading tutor for first graders at Findley School, where more than half of the students are refugees and 12 languages are spoken. I just loved it! As soon as COVID-19 hit, I returned to Summa Health as a volunteer for infection control, simulation labs and the Summa Health Pride Clinic

Some of my professional honors include earning a Cameos of Caring Award, which recognizes exceptional nurses who work at acute care hospitals, being named as an Ambassador for the City of Akron and graduating from Mayor Horrigan’s Citizens Institute – Class 3.

How long have you lived in the Akron community?

I have been here my whole life. Most of my family came from the western Kentucky area on the river and have been here for generations. 

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I had a great time owning a harness racehorse! His name was John Boy Bluegrass. He raced at Northfield Park, then later at The Meadows racetrack outside of Pittsburgh. As an aside, I was very active for many years at the St. Thomas’ Women’s Board Day at the Races

What are your hobbies and interests?

I love to travel, especially to New York City. My main interest is reading all genres of fiction and nonfiction. I am proud of my library, which takes up a third bedroom in my house. The books are mainly nonfiction, except for some of my favorite mystery stories. When I was a child, I enjoyed reading Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew and the Oz books. I also play any card game, including bridge and sometimes even Uno. I really enjoy shopping at little boutiques, thrift stores and supporting local restaurants. 

How did you first become involved with The Circle?

It was through Vivian von Gruenigen, a female OB-GYN doctor who was very instrumental in starting The Circle. I can still picture her at Virtues restaurant extolling The Circle’s virtues! I realized I was in a position where I could be a role model for other nurses and staff members, so that is when I joined. The honor of being selected as chair arrived at just the right time after finishing my term on the Kohl Family YMCA Board of Directors, where I now serve as an Advisory Board member. 

What makes The Circle’s mission powerful for you?

I find it powerful that every penny I contribute supports The Circle’s grants – and that’s a mission I haven’t found in other places. I think every member learns from the other members, myself included – and I look forward to learning from all of them. The Circle’s members share a philanthropic vision, which is very powerful too. 

What are your aspirations for your new role as chair of The Circle?

I would like to recruit more Circle members from within Summa Health and more community philanthropists to make The Circle larger and have a greater impact on women, their families and the greater Akron community. I believe that women make most of the healthcare decisions for their loved ones, so there may be room for expansion in terms of how we define women’s programs at Summa Health. I also hope to be the chair when The Circle reaches its $1 million goal. And, I’ll do anything else as assigned!

What has been your favorite program funded by a Circle grant?

I do have a favorite program from every single year. In general, I would say that the grant awarded to the Summa Health Family Medicine Center in support of the medical-legal partnership is my favorite. I bend toward anything that supports the immigrant population and helps them to choose Summa Health for their healthcare. 

What would you say to other female community leaders about getting involved in The Circle and supporting healthcare for women?

I would like to invite more leaders to join. Our members are very action-oriented and focused on making a difference for women in our community. If you are like me and want to join a group whose mission is meaningful, this is the group for you. 

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Along with my philanthropy and playing a role in strengthening Summa Health’s services and programs, I belong to a number of professional and community organizations in the greater Akron area. I am very involved in local politics, wishing the best for my ward in the city of Akron. And, of course, I am eager to begin serving as chair of The Circle and advancing its mission. 




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