Sarsaparilla Sue keeps her promise

By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun

As the official Mayor of Whiskey Flat, Susie Seeger is doing what politicians rarely do: she is keeping her campaign promise.
It’s been eight months since Seeger, a.k.a. “Sarsaparilla Sue,” was crowned Mayor of Whiskey Flat. During the six weeks of her campaign, Seeger ran hard on the platform that the money raised from ticket sales would go toward the purchase of new furniture for the Kern Valley Health Care District’s Skilled Nursing Facility.

As the Activities Supervisor at the Skilled Nursing Facility, Seeger saw a need for comfortable furniture in the day room as a way to bring the sense of home to the facility residents. Realizing that funding was not available for new furniture and window coverings, Seeger decided to jump into the Whiskey Flat Days Mayor’s Race as a way to raise the funds.

After discussing her plan with the administrators at Kern Valley Health Care District, and her family, Seeger threw her hat into the race.
In a whirlwind campaign that included a lot of work and support from family and friends, Seeger raised $15,193 from her ticket sales.

“My goal from the beginning was to raise $15,000,” Seeger said. As a Mayor candidate, Seeger received 40 percent of her ticket sales, and following the Mayor’s race, she received a check close to $7,000 from the Kernville Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Kathe Malouf / Special to the Sun; Susie Seeger, middle, with SNF employees Ashley McKinney, left, and Lily Mason, right, as they decorate cookies with residents in the newly furnished Day Room. The table they sit at was part of Seeger’s purchases for the facility, as well as the blinds behind them. The Day Room is now more comfortable due to the window coverings, as the sun can no longer heat up the room during the day.

Seeger was short of the $21,600 bid she had received for new furniture she had initially selected. So, she downsized the furniture order to about $11,600.
“With the money we raised, we were able to purchase half of what we originally intended,” Seeger said. She donated her $7,000 from the Mayor’s race toward the purchase of the furniture, and the Hospital Foundation generously agreed to put up the rest of the money for the furniture.

But she wasn’t finished.
After the Mayor’s Race, Seeger raised another $1,000 from a raffle for a new quad off-road vehicle. And as luck would have it, Seeger won the grand prize of her campaign raffle tickets, a $500 cash prize.
“I said before the winning ticket was drawn, that if I won it, I would donate the money to the Skilled Nursing Facility,” Seeger said. Her ticket was drawn, and as promised, she put the $1,000 she raised from the quad raffle and the $500 cash prize toward the purchase of new window coverings.

Still, that was not enough to pay for the new window shutters. So, the Kern Valley Health Care District stepped in and paid for the remaining cost of the new shutters.
“There was nothing on the windows before, and this room has a lot of windows,” Seeger said. “The sun would pour in and really heat up the entire room. These shutters are beautiful, and we can adjust them to let the sun in or keep it out.”

The new furniture arrived a couple of weeks ago, and the placement of the new items, along with new shutters on all the windows, has transformed the Day Room, which consisted of a few tables into a living room that invites the residents of the Skilled Nursing Facility to come in and enjoy.

The new furniture includes a love seat, two matching chairs, a glider chair, two end tables and a poker/game table with four chairs.

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“This has changed the whole perspective of the room,” Seeger said. “It’s a living room, and the residents love it. The residents can come into this room and sit down to socialize. They love to come in to this room because all the activities happen here. We play cards, Bingo, have cooking classes. This is their home, and now they have a living room where they can come in and watch TV or play games on comfortable furniture. It looks like home for them.”

The furniture is specifically designed for hospitals and skilled nursing type facilities, Seeger said, meaning that the furniture is sturdy and made with fabric that can be cleaned daily with antimicrobial products. The poker/game table can be raised to wheelchair height and even tilted so it can be easily moved to a different location.

Sitting in one of the new chairs, Seeger discussed the Whiskey Flat Mayor race. Sitting next to her is her sister Sandi Johnstone, who not only was her speech writer and sidekick during the entire campaign, but also works at the SNF as an Activities Assistant. Seeger is quick to give credit to her campaign team of volunteers, which included many family members, including her husband, Troy.

“The main thing that I want to stress is that the Whiskey Flat Mayor’s race was a Chamber of Commerce fundraiser. And had it not been for the Chamber, all of this would not have been possible,” Seeger said. “Because it was a Chamber fundraiser, I could walk into somebody’s business or organization and ask for money.”

Dressed in her signature campaign attire of colorful peacock feathers and a bright red wig, Seeger and her entourage walked into every business in the valley boldly asking for money.
Looking at the new furniture and watching the residents at the new game table, Seeger said with emotion, “This was worth every one of the blisters, tired feet and sleepless nights.”
“We are not done yet,” Seeger said, adding that they will continue to raise funds to purchase additional chairs. She said they already have money set aside for the next project. The Hospital Foundation will be purchasing a new 70″ television for the day room. “The Foundation has been amazing in helping out with this project,” Seeger said.

An open house will be held in the near future where the public will be invited to come and see for themselves the new look of the Skilled Nursing Facility’s day room.