Volunteer Spotlight: Cheryl Paul-Ward

Name: Cheryl Paul-Ward

How long have you been a volunteer?
Nine years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Has done patient care in the Care Center, prepared dishes for Thanksgiving dinner and pediatric families, clerical work, and the Tree of Life.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I did hospice [volunteering] on the east side because my husband had passed away from pancreatic cancer. It seems like a lot of times those are the reasons. When I talk to other volunteers they’ve had similar situations.

Cheryl has a long history with the Felicians, including
going to Ladywood High school.
Why Angela Hospice?
I went to Ladywood High School and I grew up in Livonia. So having dealt with the Felicians before, that was probably the reason why. The other hospice on the east side had no affiliation regarding religion, and not that Angela Hospice necessarily does, I know all patients are welcome; they still have the same beliefs I have. So that’s another reason why.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Well, I’ve meant amazingly wonderful people and that absolutely starts with the volunteers. I have two really special relationships with two ladies as a result of volunteering. When you feel the same way about a certain thing…it matters.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
In regards to those two ladies I worked with, the three of us sat in a lady’s room, and she was actively passing at that point in time. It was Christmas time so we sang Christmas carols to her and prayed. It wasn’t sad, but beautiful.

Volunteer Spotlight: Cecilia Hartsock

Name: Cecilia Hartsock

How long have you been a volunteer?
Five years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Clerical work, baking, needlework, mailings, and hospitality.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
My mother was in hospice care at St. Mary’s for about five days…Just the information they gave us, they told us what to expect so we could tell when the time was getting closer. I told them when I retire that I would become a volunteer and it worked out.

Why Angela Hospice?
I’ve been very, very impressed, especially with this new facility. I’ve seen several people that I’ve known from my parish go through this system and how much it’s helped them. It’s such a beautiful facility and they make them so comfortable. Then all the volunteers and the staff are so friendly. It’s very worthwhile.

Cecilia at the Walk of Remembrance mailing.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Even though I don’t work with the patients, you just see how it impacts the family and how appreciative they are. It gives you some self-satisfaction that you’re doing something worthwhile.

And meeting other people. I’ve gotten to be good friends with a few of them. I don’t want to be retired and just stay at home all day -- that would drive me crazy.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I don’t necessarily have one because I’m usually in the background. I don’t work with the patients. I guess it would be more just the friendships I’ve gained from it.

But when I do the time sheets for volunteers I am very impressed with how much time a lot of people do donate here. It’s a lot.

Volunteer Spotlight: Kristin Liabenow

Name: Kristin Liabenow

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?
Hospitality cart in the Care Center, works holiday parties, and makes desserts for weekly Caregiver dinners.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
My kids are grown and they moved out of the house, and I work full-time, but I had some extra time on my hands, so I decided this would be a good opportunity for me to fill some of that time. I felt like I wanted to do some more volunteering. I do a little bit of volunteering for soup kitchens but I felt like I wanted to do something in addition to that.

Why Angela Hospice?
I found Angela Hospice through a donation that I made for a friend’s grandmother who had passed. In lieu of flowers I made a donation to Angela Hospice, and that’s how I got on the website, to make the donation. Then I saw the volunteer tab on there and just perused it from there.

Kristin makes desserts for the weekly
Caregiver dinners.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Staying with the patients and listening, getting to know the patients, and even the families. With the hospitality cart you don’t just get to know the patients, you get to know the families as well. That’s probably my favorite part.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
When I first started after my training there was a young woman here and I would see her every week when I came in. She always seemed to have a really good attitude in spite of what she was going through and every time I would go see her, her husband was there. There was never a time when I came in that he wasn’t there. And I thought that she had a really good support system there. I think of everything in the last three years that’s probably the thing that stands out the most.

Team Ella

By: Dana Casadei

When a doctor suggested hospice for Rita Leonelli’s aunt-in-law Ella, she first thought that was like giving up on Ella. She quickly learned that wasn’t the case.

“I had some guilty feelings about putting her on hospice,” Rita said. “But once I kind of got what it was all about, then it was like a weight lifted. Something goes wrong...I have somebody to call. You have a huge support system.”

Ella’s previous support system (aka Rita and her husband Lance) may have been small, but it was mighty.

In 2012 the decision was made to put Ella in assisted living after she was diagnosed with dementia. At the end of 2012, Ella had a hospital stay that seemed to escalate her dementia, leading to lots of anxiety and confusion. That’s when Rita and Lance hired caregivers for Ella at her assisted living home because she couldn’t be alone. A year went by before Ella’s anxiety got worse and the combativeness started.

Rita Leonelli with a photo of her aunt-in-law Ella,
who used Angela Hospice care.
Rita said that the sweet Ella she’s known since 1989 turned into a woman that was throwing shoes and kicking her caregivers, among other things.

“Luckily, the caregivers that were with her had been with us awhile so they knew what a sweet, kind person she was,” Rita said.

Ella entered Angela Hospice care in March 2014 after some friends had told Rita and Lance what a wonderful experience they had with Angela Hospice.

“Her last year was really blessed,” Rita said. “She had regular visits with the nurse and social worker, and having that interaction with those people…she just became more social. She was doing really well. It was like, wow.”

The first thing the doctors did was get Ella’s anxiety under control, which Rita said lead to her being more like the lady she knew. She was still confused but the combativeness had stopped.

“She was very much like herself,” Rita said. “She was deteriorating health-wise but very happy.”

Two weeks before a re-evaluation to see if Ella still qualified for hospice, her heart rate dropped and then she started having seizures. Ella passed a few weeks later at age 97.

“Ella was kept so comfortable that last week,” Rita said. “It was such a peaceful passing.”

For years Ella had been a caregiver herself, taking care of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Rita said that Ella was so deserving of the wonderful care she got from Angela Hospice.

Before using Angela Hospice for Ella, Rita said that neither she nor her husband had any prior hospice experience, except when a doctor suggested it for her mother-in-law, who was very against the idea. Rita said her mother-in-law assumed that being put in hospice meant that people were giving up on her, much like Rita thought before using Angela Hospice.

Now when she thinks of hospice Rita thinks of the support system made up of the team of nurses, doctors, and social workers that cared for Ella.

“It felt like I was the only person they were helping,” Rita said. “I knew that wasn’t true but it felt that comfortable to have help come so quickly and to have the help know the case so well.

“We were Team Ella,” she laughed. “It just felt very personal. It was like there was this whole cheering section out there.”

Paid in Smiles

By: Kate McNamara, Angela Hospice Volunteer

Angela Hospice volunteer Maureen Hassien is a rare one in our “look at me” culture. She is not one to seek the spotlight. In fact, she shared that most people in her life did not even know she volunteered for several years. Considering how much she does at Angela Hospice, this is a hard feat to imagine. But, as she emphatically explained, her work at Angela Hospice “is not about me.”

Maureen with Volunteer Services Manager, Syndie Best,
at last fall's Light Up a Life gala.
Maureen began volunteering at Angela Hospice in 1997. Since that date she has used her time and formidable talents in countless ways to bless the patients and families in our care. She is a beautician by trade and shares her talent for hair care with patients at the Care Center and in home care. She tells her patients who cannot believe they don’t have to pay her, “all I charge is a smile.” She has participated in the high tea for nine years and the Wednesday night caregiver supper for over 10 years. She has helped with events including the bereavement department memorials, the Walk of Remembrance, Arbor Day, and the Tree of Life. She has done direct patient care and has also mentored new volunteers.

She says, “It gives me purpose, a direction. It’s a commitment to go and help in whatever way I can.” She smiles as she says, “When I get a smile after a haircut, I say to myself, this is why I’m here.”

When she’s holding a patient’s hand and they thank her, she says it makes her think, “They thank me? Really?” It strikes her that way because she knows from experience “supposedly you’re helping them but in a way they’re helping you.”

Maureen says she’s learned a lot in her 18 years at Angela Hospice. She said, “I’ve had deaths in the family of course during this time. It makes you realize how life is short...so live the day.”

She’s also found that “you get more compassionate when you use your own experiences to help others without sharing the details of your own story.” Words of wisdom from someone who knows “it’s not about me.”

For people who don’t know much about Angela Hospice, she would tell them, “Don’t be fearful of hospice. It’s a journey we’re all on. It’s not about giving up. It’s helping the dying live their life. And the family members too. You can share the end of life with them.”

Maureen said Angela Hospice is a great place to volunteer. There are many opportunities to help, even for those who may not want to do patient care.

“Sometimes it may be hard to find your niche but be patient and you’ll find your spot,” she said. (Or in her case, spots.)

“I enjoy all my volunteering and all the challenges that have come,” Maureen said. “I’m grateful for what it’s allowed me to do.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Sue Scappaticci

Name: Sue Scappaticci

How long have you been a volunteer?
11 years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do? 
Wednesday caregiver dinners, events, and used to do patient care.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
That’s the interesting thing. A friend of mine was a volunteer and it seemed so rewarding for her. She always talked about the patients inspiring her, especially this one particular patient. She said to me, “You’ve got to see about volunteering. I think you’d make a good volunteer.” At the time my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma and I was busy with my mom. Then, shortly after that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I had a two-fold worry there. Unfortunately, my mother passed away. But I’m still here, so I told my friend to give me a little time after my mom had passed, and I’ll think about it.

Sue cooks for the weekly caregiver dinners.
My friend brought me here and it was just so different from what I expected. So clean…it was just very nice. Then I thought, ya know what? I have a second chance and I want to give back, so that’s what I did. And I enjoy it. It’s very rewarding. I’ve made a lot of friends, lot of wonderful people. I’ve met caregivers, volunteers, and staff. They are all so nice.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I love people and I like to be with different people. And that’s how it is here. You have a variety of people, especially in the mailing process.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
There’s just so many. The Tree of Life is interesting because you don’t have to go to people, people come right to you. They go into stories right off the bat about their loved one. You just sit there and listen and you’re so amazed.