Volunteer Spotlight: Alnora Gallo

Name: Alnora Gallo

How long have you been a volunteer?
Two years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Works annual events, mailings, and sells raffle tickets.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I enjoy helping others any way that I’m able to. I have plenty of time to give and volunteering keeps me actively involved in my community.

Why Angela Hospice?
Because it’s affiliated with the Catholic Church and the location is very convenient. But, most importantly, the work they do helps so many.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Being able to help people and keeping myself active in my senior years. Working with the other volunteers has been so rewarding to me.

Alnora (center) can often be found working registration
at the Angela Hospice events.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
One day while I was selling raffle tickets a young lady purchased several tickets and started to walk away. Then she turned around and purchased several more tickets. When I asked her to wait for her tickets she said, “Just keep it. Angela Hospice was so good to my mother when she needed help.” Sometimes people will just give money when we’re selling raffle tickets and not even take tickets.

I’ve heard this over and over again. It’s extremely heartwarming. Most ticket buyers have an Angela Hospice story. 

Employee Spotlight: Lisa Norton

Name: Lisa Norton, Public Relations and Development IT Coordinator

How long have you worked here?
15 years.

What made you decide to work here?
I was taking a journalism class at Madonna University, and our guest speaker from one of the Detroit newspapers ended up not being able to make it. But the public relations coordinator from Angela Hospice happened to be walking by, and the professor called her in to talk to the class. She mentioned they were looking for a public relations intern. I applied for it, and came on as an intern for the summer. I was hired on part-time while I was in college, then full-time after I graduated. The way it happened so unexpectedly, almost randomly – I had never considered a career in public relations (although a career aptitude test I took in the seventh grade suggested it!) – it really felt serendipitous to me, like I was meant to be here. I know there are a few people on staff here that have stories like that.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
I grew up in Livonia, and as a student at Churchill High School, I had friends in the Spanish Club that did fundraisers for Angela Hospice. That was the first I had heard of Angela Hospice.

Lisa (center) with her mom and dad at last years's
Light Up a Life Gala.
What’s a typical day like for you?
My job is really a unique combination of duties. When I first came to Angela hospice, I was working just on public relations, but then I began to do more graphic design and photography. Then I became involved in fund-raising, event support, and assisting with marketing. The last piece of the puzzle was when I took over managing the fundraising database. I have so many different aspects to my job, and I work with all different departments within the agency, so my job is pretty different from day to day. I know a lot of times I come in thinking my main priority is to work on a certain project. Next thing you know it's five o’clock and I haven't even touched it. But I'm always very busy with a variety of projects. I like that there's so much variety to my job, and I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues. I feel like we have a really great team and it's an honor to be part of it.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
I love being part of an organization that I really believe in. I could never do what our nurses and aides do, but I have so much respect for them. I’m grateful that I can help out in my own way to contribute to something really positive in the community.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
One time for our women's event I got to purchase 70 purses online that we used as centerpieces and sold as a fundraiser. I felt like that was pretty much every woman's dream, getting to pick out all those purses.

But seriously, I’ve interviewed some really interesting patients and families for articles I’ve written over the years, and some of those memories have really stayed with me. Especially when I interviewed the mother of a pediatric patient, and she let me hold him. That definitely had an impact on me.

Volunteer Spotlight: Joe McCauley

Name: Joe McCauley

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?
Patient care in home care and nursing homes.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I had some extra time on my hands after I retired, and my mother was a nurse and my wife was a nurse, and I was a mailman so I’m a service-oriented type of person, and I thought that perhaps I would be of some comfort to some people. So I thought I would look into this and that’s what I did.

Why Angela Hospice?
I just happened to be around here, it’s in the area. My wife actually worked for Trinity and she wondered, “Why did you go to Angela’s instead of us?” (laughs) Angela’s was what was available at the time so I went over here.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
To have given some comfort to some patients or their families. So much of it depends on the circumstances too. Some people you have more of a rapport with. I think the time that you have a rapport with somebody, that will give you the most reward. But you can’t look at it that way. You have to look at it like you’re there to be there for them.

    Joe works with patients in home care and nursing homes.
Some people have asked me, “Why would you want to do something like this knowing that all these people are going to die at any time?” And I said, “Well, it reminds me of when I was a student. I would go on the bus to Wayne State and I would meet people on the bus and get to know them a little bit, but they would always be getting off at certain stops. So I look at this as like these people are getting off at certain stops while I continue along.” So that’s the only way, I think emotionally, I can be able to handle it.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
There was this one young boy I used to go see at his house to give his mother a break because she was his main caregiver. He couldn’t do anything except for lay in his bed and play computer games. I thought, “Oh my God, this is going to be terrible, I’ll just be there watching him play computer games.” But it actually worked out pretty nice, and over time we got to have a better rapport, and I got to help him out sometimes. If the controller fell out of his hands he couldn’t get it. That’s what kind of shape he was in. I had to place it back in his hands or get him something to eat, whatever it was that he would need while his mom was out. I felt more of a rapport with him and I looked forward to going to see him more than I had before originally. There was another gentleman who was a pastor and he used to be an airplane pilot too. He was a very interesting guy to talk to.

Employee Spotlight: Paula Schrock-Bending

Name: Paula Schrock-Bending, Care Center Nurse

How long have you worked here?
I answered an ad in the paper in 1994 for a CNA. I had done patient care my whole life but I wanted to do something alongside going to nursing school. So I came over and trained with staff and went through all the shifts. As a nurse when I graduated in 1997, there wasn’t a position for a RN, so I waited patiently and then I came on board in 2000 as a RN. So 16 years.

What made you decide to work here?
I answered the ad primarily because a Felician Sister, who was my lab partner in a chemistry course at Madonna, said, “Paula you need to go into that hospice field. Sister Giovanni has just opened up a Care Center and you need to go.” I said, “No, I don’t know if I want to do that,” because death and dying to me was very scary. I wanted to work with the geriatric clientele but I didn’t want to do it at the end stage. But then I decided, OK, why not?

I was pleasantly surprised working for Angela Hospice…My youngest patient was eight weeks old and my oldest patient was 105, so we went through the life span of taking care of patients. Then the diagnoses weren’t generic, they were all over the map. It’s been a wonder.

As the years have gone by, oh my gosh, this company…it’s all of us who have kept this company going and our beliefs and the compassion and empathy that we do for these patients, and it’s us that have turned this company into what it has produced. That’s why I’m still here, because we do great work.

Paula with a patient, Rita, in the old Care Center.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day is very unique. It’s just not the same. I mean there might be a same face but it might be a different quirk or a different expression. We are presented with so many different things on a daily basis and that’s why I like it. It’s unpredictable and it’s challenging and it’s wonderful, and I love the excitement about that. I love coming in and working with my co-workers. We’ve got a great team and we respect each other.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
My co-workers, and then knowing that I can provide high standards of nursing with my patients and know that I’m doing everything in my power to make patients and families have the care that they deserve. I love the challenges of everything that we get in there. It’s not boring, and that’s what I love. I’m so blessed that I found that ad in the paper. I love what I do.

Also, being a preceptor – I love to teach about hospice and how we work at Angela Hospice. I’ve been doing this for probably eight or nine years, teaching students from Schoolcraft, Eastern, Madonna, U of M Flint, Henry Ford.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
That’s hard to pick. There’s one ALS patient in particular and I still remember his words. He had been here three-and-a-half years and he was a friend of mine before he came here. He could only move his head back and forth, and he could swallow, maybe move his finger a little. Every wrinkle under his skin bothered him. The more the disease progressed it was more bothersome so he would go, “Just one more, just one more thing.” I never, ever said anything about it and he said, “You never say anything about my ‘one more thing.’” I said, “Why would I?” Then we had a little conversation about that. My point to bring up was he looked at me with those eyes, and I’ll never forget this, and he said, “Paula, thank God for your health.” And I said, “Every day.” You know, you take for granted some of the things that you have, but at this point, some of the patients and families that we take care of, there’s no material things left and it’s just surviving another second, minute, day. For him to say that, it has stuck with me the rest of my life.

Paula (left) received her 15-year service award last year.
There was another patient who we would know was in pain because she would start repeating her words. She had her pain medication and I went in there and I thought, let’s sing a song. The first song that popped into my brain was “You Are My Sunshine.” So I started singing softly to her and the repeating started slowing down. Then she stopped and she started singing the song with me. For about 15 minutes we were in there singing softly and I was rubbing her hand until she went to sleep. Those are other moments I take from this position. It’s just the gentleness that you learn to do here. It’s those kinds of “bonus moments” I call them, because you don’t always get those, and you don’t always expect thank-yous, but we do get those. What I expect is for my patients to be pain-free, have symptom management, and the family is happy. What I don’t expect but I get are these little gestures – like if a patient is unresponsive and they raise their hand and they touch me, or smile, or just their eyes looking at you – you don’t need words. That’s what is wonderful about this position. That you get so much back.

Volunteer Spotlight: Cheri Gelnak

Name: Cheri Gelnak

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?
Patient care in the Care Center and is a Flower Bud.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
My husband died in 2004 and he was with Angela Hospice. That prompted me to want to be able to pay it forward and help others.

Why Angela Hospice?
It’s a first-class operation, best in class.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Being able to comfort other people in the little tasks that you do.

     Cheri volunteers in the Care Center and is a Flower Bud.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Just everything. With the flowers people are always like, “Oh, are those beautiful!” Being able to sit with somebody in the evening in the Care Center and making them not feel alone. Providing them with some support.