ENGLEWOOD, FL — When he was a boy, Jeffrey Pompe went to Englewood Community Hospital with his grandmother, who worked there for 17 years. As a teen, he volunteered there. Little did he know he would become the director of Food and Nutrition Services.

Pompe, 27, a Lemon Bay High School graduate, mixed his love for food with helping people to create a career at the hospital. Today, he oversees 17 employees. The most rewarding part of his work, he said, comes from making people smile and giving them a pleasurable dining experience at the hospital.

"When I am working with a patient and they are satisfied, that is when I am the most happy at my job," he said, adding there are misnomers about hospital food.

"What people don't know is we get our food from the same stores as the public does. In the past, the food may have come from elsewhere, but today it comes from stores like Publix." Pompe said that cobbler and cheesecake are the most popular desserts asked for by patients. He said desserts are made from scratch so they can be altered for special diets, including diabetes.

"We teach patients how to maintain healthy habits after their stay," he said. "We help them understand how to look at overall nutrition and to have they can certain foods in moderation."

Another LBHS graduate, Angela Bonakoske, 29, manages RN Emergency Services. While in high school, she learned about the new dual-enrollment program at Lemon Bay High School. Then she worked as a certified nursing assistant on weekends. She got more exposure in nursing and knew she wanted a career in the medical field.

"I worked in the cardiac unit for three years," she said. "I was floated down to the ER. I helped at times. Now, I've been there for nine years. I was also a secretary in the ER so I learned a lot about the administrative aspect as well." With 19,000 ER visits from patients in 2015, Bonakoske said it's important for nurses to work closely with doctors and other staff members because they are basically like a huge family at the 100-bed facility. Bonakoske said it's also important to know the latest information about diseases and community resources.

"Sometimes we in the ER are a person's only resource," she said. "Since we know what resources there are in the community, we can help patience. For example, if someone needs a low-cost dentist or aftercare services we can point a person in the right direction."

Bonakoske says she would encourage any high school student to volunteer, job shadow or do other prerequisite work at Englewood Community Hospital. Through dual enrollment, she was able to do clinical work through Charlotte Technical Center. "Englewood Hospital is very good hospital," she said. "Lemon Bay High School is supportive of its students. Working at the hospital gives you a realistic view of healthcare. Guidance counselors and teachers at Lemon Bay High School have been encouraging students to job shadow or at least ask questions of local experts in order to learn more about professions."

Caleb Hemmerlein, Vice President of Human Resources at the hospital, said there are opportunities for local teens to spend some time volunteering in a hospital setting.

"This is a great way to be of service to the community all while learning if healthcare is something they feel passionate about," he said. "Many times, like in Jeff's situation, students learn an area of healthcare that they did not think of pursuing. We have been very pleased with the caliber of student volunteers that have come out of our local high schools. We always look for an opportunity to promote from within not just our facility, but our local community as well. Jeff and Angela are great examples of our dedication to growing our team here at ECH. We look forward to a continued relationship with the schools in our area including local nursing schools. ECH, in addition to other HCA facilities including one in Port Charlotte, have a program for new graduate nurses called StaRN. The program includes approximately 13 weeks of training — including six weeks of advanced classroom training in simulation labs and the remaining weeks at the facility that they will be working.

"Graduates of the program then enter their facility with an even greater knowledge base and additional hands-on training, which allows us to continue to provide the level of care that residents of our community have come to expect," Hemmerlein said.