By Jennifer McDaniel, for the Lincoln Sentinel
Andrea Rinaldo always wanted to return to her roots.
After growing up in a small town 25 miles outside of Louisville, Ky., Rinaldo knew that one day she would return to the slower pace of a rural community.
And though it took several years to accomplish, she and her husband, Jim, are finally realizing that dream.
In May, Rinaldo began working as a Nurse Practitioner in Lincoln County Hospital’s medical clinics in Lincoln and Sylvan Grove. And last week, the community had the opportunity to meet her during an open house in Sylvan Grove.
As an adult, Rinaldo left Kentucky behind, eventually moving to Florida. Even though she and her husband, Jim, lived in a bedroom community north of Tampa, it just wasn’t the same. Like his wife, Jim had a similar upbringing, being raised in a small town in upstate New York.
“I always had a love for living in a small community,” she said.
The path to Kansas didn’t come easily or quickly, Rinaldo said, noting it all started with an invitation in the early 1990s.
Jim, an avid bow hunter, was introduced to north central Kansas after a client invited him there to hunt. During the getaway, Jim and the Jewell, Kan., farmer hosting the hunters hit it off so well that he invited Rinaldo back each year to hunt.
After several trips to Kansas, the couple began searching for property, but came up empty-handed. It wasn’t until 2005 they found land in Mitchell County.
“We purchased it and put a camper on it,” she said. “We truly bought it as a getaway, but fell so in love with the area we decided to make the transition. We always joke, it’s all because of the deer.”
Even after the move, Andrea continued to return to Florida to make money by working five or six 12-hour shifts. But by 2014, she grew tired and tried finding a job closer to home. But with no openings nearby, she accepted a position in January 2014 at StatCare, an urgent care clinic in Salina. It wasn’t long, though, until she learned Lincoln County Hospital was needing a nurse practitioner and applied for the job.
Rinaldo, whose first official day at the clinic was May 31, has been a board-certified nurse practitioner since 2004 and a registered nurse since 1986.
Looking back on the transition, Rinaldo said it wasn’t difficult adapting to life in a small community.
“I think we were so ready to live out in the country,” she said. “I think the biggest challenge has been that I travel 14 miles of dirt and gravel roads to get to my home. The road was washed out three times this year, and I had to ride a tractor to get across, so that has been an adjustment. But for the most part, it’s really been an easy transition for us.”
And for that small piece of property the Rinaldos bought years back, well, they’ve added to it.
“As we have enjoyed living in the country, we bought more land,” she said. “We started with 300 acres, and we’ve probably tripled that.”
Today, the couple lives in a log cabin the two built by hand. The property, located about 10 miles north of Hunter, is used to raise row crops and cattle, while a portion is conserved through the CRP program. And Jim still manages his custom cabinet manufacturing business in Florida he started 37 years ago.
And while the couple’s youngest children are still living in Florida, their oldest son and his family fell in love with Kansas, too, and recently moved to Beloit.
After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps two years ago, the family tried living in Florida, but it wasn’t the right fit. In June, they moved to Beloit, where Andrea’s son teaches at North Central Kansas Technical College and his wife teaches at St. John’s-Tipton. The couple’s three children also attend school at St. John’s.
Though it took some time, Rinaldo said she and her husband couldn’t be happier with their decision. And for Andrea, working at the clinic has been an experience like none other.
“What I’ve noticed is everybody I’ve met has been so appreciative of the care,” she said. “For me, it’s been wonderful when someone is so appreciative that I’m taking care of them, and doing the best I can. It’s so much more rewarding than what you find in larger cities. It’s been warm and wonderful, and it’s so nice taking care of patients who are also interested in taking care of themselves. It makes my job much easier, and it’s something I have never seen before. It’s been a wonderful experience.”