A firm believer in the mantra ‘everything happens for a reason,’ Portage native and Porter Regional Hospital radiographer Gina Giese-Hurst lives life with an inspiring faith.
“Years ago, I was called into work shortly after my father passed away,” Giese-Hurst said. “It just so happened that my very first patient was a woman who had known my father, and she shared with me a story of how he had touched her life. In that moment I thought ‘I was meant to be here today.’ Finding those types of connections with people has always been my passion.”
After attending Portage High School and Indiana University Northwest, Giese-Hurst found herself craving a taste of adventure. She decided to venture outside her hometown with her husband James, moving to Fort Wayne, Virginia, and New Hampshire before circling back and settling down in the same house she grew up in.
“My daughters are now the 5th generation of our family to have lived in that house,” Giese-Hurst said. We came back to be with family, but moving away taught me that it’s not where you live, it’s what you make of it. I cherish Portage now. As family members moved or passed on over the years, we’ve made new family in the form of friends and people around the area.”
For Giese-Hurst, the word family transcends blood relation and extends to the entire Portage community, a perspective she inherited from her father.
“Dad would sit in the front yard and whenever a car would honk, he’d wave back at them. I’d always ask him who it was, and he’d tell me he didn’t know,” Giese-Hurst said. “I thought it was silly at the time, but now I find myself doing the same thing.”
In an era where it’s common for teens to spend more time on screens than socializing face to face, this strong sense of community is something Giese-Hurst strives to pass on to her daughters, Marissa, 19, and Lauren, 17.
“I want my kids to be able to go away knowing that they always have a place here, and to want to come back,” Giese-Hurst said. “A lot of that stems from the relationships they build here.”
“I remember seeing some local kids walk by and asking my daughters if they knew them. When they said no, I said, ‘Well why not?’ and decided to host a big bonfire at our house for all the local kids to get to know each other,” Giese-Hurst continued. “By the end of the night they had all connected with people they might have never interacted with otherwise. It was really cool to see!”
While some draw inspiration from one or two key mentors in their lives, Giese-Hurst finds value and beauty in every soul she encounters.
“I get inspired by everyone I meet,” Giese-Hurst said. “If you take the time to have a conversation with someone, you’re bound to find something you have in common, even if it’s as simple as the type of coffee you drink. I’ve met some of the most amazing people simply by striking up a conversation.”
“People will always jokingly ask me if I know everyone in Portage,” Giese-Hurst laughed. “I just make a habit of saying hello to people, and sooner or later you start to build a network of friends that brings you closer with your community.”
A Radiographer of 30 years, Giese-Hurst embraces the chance to help heal patients and touch their hearts in the process.
“I love what I do,” Giese-Hurst said. “If I can give even one person a smile, I know I have succeeded that day.”
Most recently Giese-Hurst decided to take her commitment to the community a step further by becoming a City Councilwoman.
“My district is my family,” Giese-Hurst said. “I like to focus on building up relationships with people, and this position allows me to that on a bigger scale.”
It is clear that Giese-Hurst’s greatest passion lies in people, finding ways to give to others and bring them joy. She puts this calling to action through work in children’s ministry, youth groups, and camp counseling.
“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work through ministry mission trips with teens,” she said. “People always talk about lessons learned through your elders, but I learn just as much from the young people I’ve met. On the other hand, some of the best relationships I’ve sewn have come from nursing homes. No matter what their age, you can always learn from people.”
When she has time to herself Giese-Hurst enjoys soaking up nature’s simple pleasures, whether it’s coming close to the calming waves of the ocean, camping and hiking at the Indiana Dunes or finding peace in her own backyard.
“My father used to sit on the front porch and watch the sunrise, and now I start my day on the same porch watching that same sun,” she said. “I used to think he was crazy for waking up that early, but now those moments bring me the deepest serenity. I appreciate the value in those moments and understand why he did it.”
With her humble nature and compassionate heart, Giese-Hurst will no doubt continue to be a source of community and friendship in Portage for years to come.