Volunteer Spotlight: Ellen LaGory

Name: Ellen LaGory

How long have you been a volunteer?
Three years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Helping Kristy Hunley in HR. I do filing, whatever she needs done. Used to do the Caregiver Suppers.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I had started hearing about hospice when I was in high school. It was a fairly new concept then and it just made so much sense to me. Then as an adult – we lived right here in Livonia for 25 years – we were donors. I came to events but then when I neared retirement I decided I wanted to spend some time volunteering. So that’s when I went through the training.

Ellen volunteers primarily in HR.
Why Angela Hospice?
I heard such good things about it. Living right here in the community I read more about it than I would have outside of the community. I just had a lot of respect for Sister Giovanni.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I guess just knowing that I’m helping in some way.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Probably during a Caregiver Supper when there was one elderly man that was especially grateful.

Looking for a little sparkle?

This year’s Light Up a Life Gala will have guests feeling like VIPs! And what better way to feel like a superstar than winning an exclusive raffle.

One winner will receive the Lady’s White Gold 18K Beloved Pendant by Hearts of Fire and 20” adjustable chain (pictured above, enlarged to show detail). The necklace is valued at $3,650 and was generously donated by Orin Jewelers of Garden City.

Tickets for the exclusive raffle are $20 each, three for $50 or eight for $100. The drawing will take place on Friday, October 28, and you must be present to win. Tickets will only be sold at the event.

For more details on Light Up a Life click here: http://www.angelahospice.org/events/light-up-a-life/

Employee Spotlight: Helen Balmforth

Name: Helen Balmforth, Events Coordinator

What made you decide to work here?
I had run my own company for about 10 years doing event planning. I had called Deirdre (Stemmelen) over at Laurel Manor, as we were planning an event, and by coincidence she mentioned to me that Angela Hospice was hiring an event planner. It felt like that was sort of my tap on the shoulder move, as I’ve always sort of lived and worked in this square mile.

I went to St. Edith for grade school, Ladywood High School, went to Madonna (University) for college, and my most recent contract work – prior to working here – was at Ladywood High School. So when I was deciding if I wanted to continue doing contract work or go full-time…and that sort of fell into my lap, it felt like it was divine intervention, and here I am. I called, interviewed the next day, and was hired the day after that.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
I’ve lived in this area my whole life. I’ve had a handful of friends that have gone through Angela Hospice in the Care Center, and just knew it by living in the area.

What’s a typical day like for you?
(huge laugh) A typical work day for an event planner is you never know what’s coming down the pipe. There are days where you think you’re going to go in and everything’s going to be in order and then it goes the complete opposite direction. There’s an amazing amount of time that has to be put into the finite details, crossing every “t,” dotting every “i.”

There are many nights I lie in bed awake at night thinking of details I might have forgotten, and I’ll jot them down in the middle of the night. You have to wear a lot of hats -- a public relations hat, a marketing hat, a sales hat, a corporate donor/cultivation hat, a logistics hat -- and keep coming up with new and fresh ideas.

Helen (in blue) with her family at this year's
Walk of Remembrance.
What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
The sense of teamwork and accomplishing anything that needs to be done. Everybody rallies around everybody else when things need to get done. The mission of what we do. The story of how we got started, Sister Giovanni’s story.

I would say my favorite part is the adrenaline rush that goes with the event planning and then putting the event together, and having the whole thing come to fruition. Having everybody see the labor of love that it turned into.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
Probably last year’s Light Up a Life Gala. When we introduced the concept of the dueling pianos as the entertainment there was a lot of eye-rolling, question marks, and concern. And the evening ended with us having to basically push people out the door because people were having such a great time. There was a lot of positive feedback the following day that it was one of the best events that had ever happened. Just breathing new life into events…it’s been a lot of fun to watch. It’s exciting.

Mission and Heritage Week

Last week was Mission & Heritage Week for the Felician Sisters, and we took part in some fun activities to celebrate the week. The special week began on Oct. 4, which is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi and ended on Oct. 10, the feast day of the Blessed Mary Angela, who founded the Felician Sisters. This year's theme was "Extending Mercy, Restoring Hope." So what did we do? Find out below!

Annual St. Francis Humane Society Drive: Throughout the week we collected items for animals, such as empty toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, pet toys, paper towels, and more. On Friday there was a Pet Blessing at Madonna University where guests were able to get their pets blessed.
Lisa Norton (left) and Barb Brown (right) with some of
the many items our staff donated.
Scavenger Hunt: Angela Hospice staff members got to take part in a scavenger hunt to test their knowledge about the Felician Sisters. 

Lady Jacoba cookies: A few of our team members made Lady Jacoba cookies for the Felician Sisters in Livonia. St. Francis loved these cookies, and at the end of his life these were all he could eat. They are named after Lady Jacoba, who made the cookies for St. Francis.
A few of our team members making cookies in the
Care Center family kitchen.
Chili Cook-Off: There was also a Chili Cook-Off, where employees brought their best chili recipe to the competition. Congratulations to nurse William Long who took first place! Director of Marketing Margaret Breeden's vegetarian chili came in second, and Melinda Thornton earned the third place slot. All proceeds benefited the Angela Hospice Employee Emergency Assistance Fund.
Special guests from the Livonia Fire Department judged the competition.
Did you participate in any Mission & Heritage Week activities last week? Tell us in the comments!

Volunteer Spotlight: Pat Zygner

After using Angela Hospice’s bereavement services, Pat Zygner wanted to give back. Little did she know her giving back was about to save Angela Hospice thousands of dollars.

“The bereavement office helped me out at the worst time of my life, so I just felt like I really wanted to do something for them,” Pat said.

Pat with one of the embroidered angels.
Pat started volunteering in the bereavement office three years ago, helping in any way she could. Then during Christmas she wanted to do a little something extra for Angela Hospice Bereavement Social Worker Joan Lee, who Pat had gone to for counseling after her husband died. So she made her an embroidered angel. Then Joan called Pat with an idea.

“She said, ‘Can you make 100 to 120 a month?’” Pat laughed. “I almost fell over cause I thought, ‘No, each one takes 20 minutes.’

“Your machine has a stitch count – just like a car has gas – and I thought that would put an end to my machine, all those stitches.”

Plus, why would Joan want so many each month? Because on the one-year anniversary of a patient’s death the Angela Hospice Bereavement Department sends out angels to their loved ones. At the time, the department had been sending out pins; but that would soon change.

While Pat wasn’t willing to take on a project of that magnitude alone, she was willing to work with a group of her fellow volunteers. They then formed the Angel Brigade, which was making embroidered angels from home. Soon after they started Joan said she wanted Angela Hospice to get their own machine that they could have in the bereavement office, and she asked Pat to pick it out.

“I was a little nervous at first because when they asked me to pick the machine I thought that I was partial to a Brother because that’s what I have,” Pat said. “But I did an analysis of all kinds of embroidery machines.”

A close-up of the angels, which are made on an Innov-is
NQ1400E embroidery machine.
In the end, they did go with a Brother machine, an Innov-is NQ1400E. Then Pat, who is the most organized person you will ever meet, did another analysis; this time it was a cost analysis.

The angel pins Angela Hospice was sending out were costing about $4,500 to order, package, and ship – and sometimes came back because they would get broken in the mail. Compare that to the embroidered angels, which Pat figured would cost about $993 to make and mail. So she found a way for the bereavement office to save over $3,500 each year. Pat said the cost for the embroidered angels has probably gone down since, saving Angela Hospice even more money. Now, with an embroidery machine at Angela Hospice and a handful of fellow volunteers, the process of making the embroidered angels and mailing them is run like…well, a well-oiled machine, with Pat at the helm.

“I know my time sheet probably looks like…what is she doing? Washing angels?,” Pat said with her infectious laugh. “Laying out angels? Stitching angels?”

Pat, who has been embroidering for the last eight years, said it’s kind of exciting knowing that her idea – her embroidered angels – are going to people. She does often wonder what they think when they receive them though, and what they might be using them for.

Some members of the quilter's group.
With the quilters group, another area Pat volunteers in at Angela Hospice, she doesn’t have to wonder about either of those things. She knows how people feel about the completed blanket of their loved one’s clothes the minute they receive them.

“The people that get the angels we don’t really ever see them,” Pat said. “But the people that get the quilts…to see their faces when they come in and we open it up…they’re like, 'Wow!' They always cry.

“When you see their face you think, ‘Wow, you made somebody feel so good today,’” Pat continued. “And they’re going to go home and curl up in this.”

As much as Pat loves the Angel Brigade, her favorite memories of volunteering come from working with the Grief Support Quilters Group. Almost everyone in the group has lost their spouse so it’s a place they can talk about things others might not fully understand. Pat is also able to relate to the people she sees at the memorials, where she volunteers a few times a year.

“The first couple of memorials were just heartbreaking,” Pat said. “Now, I love working the memorials. It’s heartwarming to see these people. They’re so vulnerable, pouring their hearts out about their loves ones. I’m like ‘I can relate.’”

While she doesn’t consider herself to be any sort of counselor, if someone does want to talk to her about their loved ones she’s more than willing to listen. Just like Joan and the quilter’s group do for Pat.

“It’s (volunteering) hard to explain to people,” Pat laughed. “’You volunteer at Angela Hospice?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’m not really a saint though because I don’t work in the Care Center. I work in the office.’”

Pat might not consider herself a saint but Angela Hospice sure does.