Employee Spotlight: Barb Brown

Name, title: Barb Brown, Mission Integration Leader & Administrative Assistant

How long have you worked here?
Six years. (My anniversary is Nov. 8 which also happens to be my birthday. My first day at Angela Hospice was the best birthday present ever.)

What made you decide to work here?
I worked as a volunteer with Angela Hospice and was looking on the website because I had missed receiving the volunteer newsletter. I happened to look at the job openings and saw the Administrative Assistant job advertised. I applied, taking a chance and not thinking anything would come of it, and here I am six years later.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
My mother was a patient at Angela Hospice 20 years ago. So my family was fortunate to experience firsthand the wonderful services of Angela Hospice.

What’s a typical day like for you?
I guess the best way to answer that question is that I don’t have typical days – and that’s why I love my job. My days include planning and working on Mission Integration events, reserving meeting spaces, assisting Kristy in HR, monthly orientation for new employees, and miscellaneous administrative tasks for Margot, Marti, and the Board of Directors.

     For this year's Mission & Heritage Week Barb made
    Lady Jacoba cookies for the Felician Sisters in Livonia.
What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
Though I love everything I do for Angela Hospice, my favorite part is Mission Integration, which allows me to interact with all the employees at Angela Hospice, beginning with their first day of orientation. I am able to share my strong beliefs in the mission statement of Angela Hospice, the Felician Core Values, and the rich history associated with the Felician Ministries. And it has given me the opportunity to meet other people working for Felician Ministries all over the United States and Canada.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
I don’t have one specific memory; what does come to mind is that Angela Hospice team members are compassionate, dedicated, and respectful. And it’s not a coincidence that these qualities are the same as the Felician Core Values. I believe you could ask any team member and they would agree that being a faith-based organization is what makes Angela Hospice and its team members special and unique. One can always come to work and feel a sense of peace, even on the most stressful days, because we are always there for each other.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sharon Stuscavage

Name: Sharon Stuscavage

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?
Medical records, bakes cookies for incoming volunteer classes, caregiver suppers, and the Tree of Life.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
A few years ago they needed people to go to the Tree of Life and they said you could bring a friend, and my friend asked me to come. After I got done…I had kind of been looking for somewhere to start volunteering because I had been very active in the school system when my kids were smaller…when I worked the Tree of Life I thought, “I think I like this.” So I came in and did the volunteer classes.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
The satisfaction you get from seeing how grateful people are, especially at the caregiver suppers. They are so grateful for that little, tiny thing.

Sharon volunteers in many areas,
including medical records.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
That’s a hard one. I do know the first time that I worked the Tree of Life a little boy came up and he asked me what the angels were for. I said they were for our loved ones in heaven and he said, “I have an uncle that’s in heaven.” He tugged at my heart a little.

Then there was an older gentleman in the Care Center who was Southern, and he always talked to me. He was from the same state – Kentucky – that my mom and dad were from, and he ate something that my mom and dad always ate. He’d come down to the caregiver suppers and one evening I heard his daughter say, “Do you want your buttermilk?” Then I thought how my mom and dad always drank buttermilk. He said yes and the next thing I knew I saw him crumbling his corn bread into his buttermilk. I told him he almost brought me to tears because that was what my mom and dad did all the time.

Employee Spotlight: Martha Hutchinson

Name, title: Martha Hutchinson, Home Care Case Manager

How long have you worked here?
Almost 17 years. 

What made you decide to work here?
As a new, inexperienced but older nurse, I followed the advice of my friend Wendy Winkler -- an Angela Hospice pediatric RN at the time -- to visit and consider working for Angela Hospice. Oh, what she set in motion!

What’s a typical day like for you?
Most days, plans made the day before will change after listening to report -- requiring more flexibility than I knew I possessed. A typical day involves lots of phone calls related to patients and their care. A good typical day includes regular interactions with my clinical peers. Each day includes home visits, of course, which can go as planned or can provide unexpected challenges. I sure have been exposed to many opportunities to reach outside my original comfort zone.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
The interactions with people facing end-of-life, in its many presentations. Most of the time, this is such an honest, frank time of peoples’ lives.

Martha receiving her 15-year service award. 
One of the very most important, long-standing satisfactions with this work is this: I get to be present at a very intimate, very graphic, very real time of peoples’ lives. And in general, even if not always, it is such a gift from the universe to be present. Not only participating in providing physical comfort, but because often enough, patients and families no longer focus on the minutiae, the crap, the superficial that most of us spend our lives doing…The lucky folks see and live out what is of the most basic importance -- love, relationships with family, friends, the spiritual, the existential. All else pales (once physical symptoms are managed).

I deeply appreciate the moments of grace I sometimes witness with patients and families as they face this final task.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
There’s no single memory -- there have been many over the years. Peer interactions and frank, honest experiences with families are at the core of my favorite memories.

Divine Intervention

The two rooms are right next to each other and we enter the one on the left first, Shirley Potts leading the way. There’s something instantly likeable about her, maybe it’s her warm smile or the fact that she’s a self-described “hugger.” When she introduces me to her mom, Mary Mitchell, rather loudly (she’s hard of hearing), her mom smiles back, and so do I. Shirley shows off the clothes and jewelry box her mom had her bring from home, the rings glistening off the light when she opens the box. Her mom has always been stylish and being a hospice patient wasn’t about to stop that. Now her rings, which sparkle off her fingers, just go with a patient gown instead.

Mary’s jewelry isn’t the only thing familiar to her in the Angela Hospice Care Center though. Her son and one of Shirley’s brothers, Lawrence, is a patient in the room next door.

“To have them here is a sense of relief,” Shirley said. “I know that they’re taken care of if I can’t just run down here.”

It’s a relief for Lawrence too since he no longer needs to worry about his mom.

“It’s a great place to be,” he said in his gravelly voice after Shirley handed him the notebooks he had asked for. He loves to chart everything.

Shirley, who lives in Lansing, gets to the Care Center as often as she can to see how her mom and brother are doing. During the week she’ll also probably be making stops to see her step-dad, who she affectionately calls “Grandpa,” and is still living in his home; and one of her other brothers who has end stage liver disease and is living in New Baltimore, Michigan.

Shirley with her brother Lawrence in his room at the
Angela Hospice Care Center.
Needless to say her car has been getting a lot of miles lately and the road to Angela Hospice began with her brother Lawrence.

Shirley had made an appointment for her brother and dad at the pulmonologist, but the doctor she had originally scheduled their appointments with was out. So they ended up seeing a different doctor, who specialized in pulmonary hypertension.

“That’s why I know the Lord intervenes,” Shirley said before continuing the story.

The doctor looked at both of them, gave her dad what he needed, but told her that there was a lot to talk about when it came to Lawrence’s health. He continued to see the specialist with a continuous decline before being told that his best option would be an open chest surgery, which Lawrence didn’t want.

Then one night Lawrence, who is bed-ridden, called Shirley rather late and said he needed something. Shirley asked him if he needed help and he said yes. She had her son go over because she was at the hospital with her mom. Then they called 911.

“We got him to the hospital and he said, ‘I can’t go home, I won’t go home. What are we going to do?’” Shirley explained.

Heartland was mentioned since Lawrence had been there before for a blood clot, then she remembered she and Lawrence had talked about hospice. One of Lawrence’s doctors mentioned Angela Hospice.

“That’s how we ended up here,” she said.

Once Lawrence was settled in the Care Center Shirley brought her mom to visit him. Right before they came to see him Shirley found out that her mom was going to need 24/7 care at home, something that Shirley wasn’t sure how she would be able to provide.

Shirley with her mom, Mary, and the jewelry she
wanted brought from her home.
When Mary was visiting the Care Center she asked Shirley why she couldn’t stay there. Shirley told her they probably wouldn’t be able to afford it and she might not qualify for hospice care. Shirley had started to look for a nursing home for her mom when an Angela Hospice staff member recommended Shirley look into her parents’ insurances to see if it would cover hospice room and board. Thankfully it did.

“These four people -- mom, grandpa, Lawrence, and Darrell -- are the first people I loved,” Shirley said through tears. “And they get on my nerves. But I want them taken care of.

“I’m losing them all at once and that’s what’s really hard,” she continued.

The four of them luckily have a woman like Shirley, who has a smile that rarely leaves her face, and during the rare instance it does there’s only a moment before it comes back, just as bright as before. Shirley’s strength through all this would put a champion weightlifter to shame.

So where does Shirley get all her strength from? She answers plain and simple, without a moment’s hesitation: “God.”

She believes in people working as if they’re serving the Lord, something she sees happening at Angela Hospice, where everyone she’s met has been nothing short of wonderful.

“I mean right down to the people pushing the carts and cleaning,” she said. “Everybody who I have encountered has just been more than amazing and more than I expected, but what I like to see.

“I haven’t seen anybody who hasn’t been gracious and wanting to help when I ask for it,” she continued.

Just like Shirley, who jokes throughout the interview that her life is like a movie. If it was, it’s clear who the hero would be: her.

When it's a Blue Christmas

For more tips on how to get through the holidays while dealing
with a loss, check out "In the W," which featured Angela Hospice's
Director of Social Work & Bereavement last week. Watch here.
The holidays can be an especially tough time while going through any kind of loss. On Wednesday, Dec. 14 Angela Hospice will be co-sponsoring Blue Christmas at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church to provide support for those dealing with a loss this holiday season.

“It’s kind of a prayer service for anyone who has suffered any kind of loss,” said Diane McDonald, Angela Hospice Director of Spiritual Care, who will be doing a reading at the event. “It doesn’t have to be a death. It could be a job, it could be a relationship, it could be a pet…”

During this time of year there are often advertisements showing families enjoying the holidays, but not everyone has the opportunity to do that. Events like Blue Christmas are a good time to come together and support each other. Diane said she thinks events like this are important because no one should be alone during the holiday season.

For those unable to attend the event Diane has a few tips to help you get through the holiday season.

  • Be with those that not only care about you but care for you. Be around people who will try and lift you up.
  • If you don’t have family or friends to reach out to then try a support group.
  • Look for inspirational reading material by those who have gone through loss and see how they got through it.
  • Try meditation and reflection.

When it comes to book suggestions, Diane recommends the Association for Death Educators and Counseling website, which has lists for almost every type of loss, including pet loss and how to help someone who is grieving.

Blue Christmas, which is open to all, will have a reflection, a few readings, and music. There will also be refreshments after. St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church is located at 27475 5 Mile Road in Livonia and the event will start at 7 p.m.

For more about the grief support services Angela Hospice provides, or to schedule an appointment with a grief counselor, call (734) 464-7810 and ask to speak with our Bereavement Department. You can also visit us at AskForAngela.com.

A Lifelong Entertainer

At 95 some would be slowing down, but that’s not Doug Williams’ style. He might be a hospice patient but that doesn’t mean he is going to stop doing what he loves: karaoke.

“I’d be lost without karaoke,” he said.

“It’s definitely your thing,” laughed Mary Wolfe, one of his daughters who is with her dad six days a week. He spends four days a week at her home, which Doug helped build, and three nights at his room at Fox Run, where she stays a couple nights a week. One of her brothers stays with him the seventh day.

This isn’t Doug’s first hospice stay though. He tried hospice back in January, but just kept on getting better. And he was finally discharged before going back on hospice in November.

Doug (center) with two of his daughters, Mary Wolfe (left)
and Nancy Ray. He sings karaoke every weekend.
When he isn’t at home Doug, who has congestive heart failure, can be found at the VFW or American Legion every weekend with his family. Sometimes he sings with his brothers and sister, who call themselves the Wild Willies. Other times he sings with one of his kids. Or he’s perfectly content singing solo.

“I just think it’s a lot of fun,” Doug said.

Doug can be heard singing everything from Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” to “The Old Rugged Cross,” the latter of which he often closes with.

He’s always loved to sing but that love was taken to new heights when he was overseas in the Army during World War II.

Before Doug joined the Army, where he went from private to sergeant in three-and-a-half years, he was hit in the eye with the end of a broomstick and lost most of the vision in his right eye.

“God works in strange ways,” he said.

Because of this he wasn’t sent to the frontlines since, as he put it, “You needed two good eyes for that.”

So instead he started out as the baker for his company, where he got to lift the men’s spirits by making dessert. Then he became the entertainment director of the enlisted men’s club, where his love for singing and entertainment flourished.

Doug served in the Army for almost four
years during World War II.
When Doug first got the title he was pretty apprehensive about it, but he said you learn pretty quickly how to do something when you have to. He started looking for entertainment for the company, which he often did by seeing local shows he heard about via word-of-mouth. Sometimes the performers were good, other times they were so bad he had to do a little performing himself.

Doug said the biggest group he had to perform in front of was about 300 people, which would be intimidating for some, but Doug grew up one of 11 kids. He was used to a big crowd.

“They had to have someone for entertainment and sometimes I was the best they could get,” he laughed.

Doug’s crowds at karaoke might not be quite as big, but he still loves it. In fact, he’ll perform just about everywhere, including a hospital bed.

About a year-and-a-half ago he was in the hospital and Mary said he had the party room, with people constantly coming in and out because they were under the impression that he was going to pass in a few days.

“About the third day or so he said to me, ‘When am I going to die? Cause I’m getting tired,’” Mary explained. “I said, ‘Dad, it could be a couple days to a couple months.’ He said, ‘Well, then I’m taking a nap.’”

Which is exactly what he did after our interview ended. He needed to rest up before another weekend of karaoke.

Volunteer Spotlight: Anne and John Kanitra

Last year volunteers Anne and John Kanitra worked the Tree of Life for the first time, and it wasn’t exactly what they had expected.

“We did a Saturday night and a couple of ladies came up to the table,” John said. “They had just lost their young child and she’s telling us all about it and we’re both choking back tears.

“After they left we looked at each other and said, ‘Oh my gosh, is it going to be like this the whole three hours? I’ll never survive this. It’s so hard,’” he laughed.

John and Anne work in home care and do multiple
shifts at the Tree of Life.
Luckily, the rest of that first shift went pretty smoothly and it didn’t scare them off. They kept coming back, every Saturday in fact, in what has now become a tradition in itself. They first go to church, then grab dinner at the mall before going to their Tree of Life shift.

When Anne first heard about the Tree of Life she said it was a no-brainer as to whether or not they should sign up.

“To take a couple hours and sit at those tables is no problem at all for us,” she said. “What else are we going to be doing? Watching TV?”

Working the Tree of Life lets them do two things. One, they get to do community outreach about what hospice is and what exactly hospice does. John said the Tree of Life is an easy way for people to get information about hospice without having to call or go online. He and Anne can help get the message out that hospice isn’t a scary word, and isn’t all dark and gloomy.

Two, they get to hear people’s stories, which is one of their favorite parts about volunteering. And since they both volunteer in home care, they hear a lot of stories.

“It’s a privilege to go and see someone’s life,” John said. “When you connect with somebody – the relief you give the caregiver – it’s wonderful. It’s very inspirational to me.”

John and Anne at last year's Volunteer Appreciation
Anne and John know about that sort of caregiver relief. In 2011 Anne’s mom was an Angela Hospice patient and she said she utilized the volunteers, especially because she was working full-time and couldn’t always get home right away.

Anne’s mom also went into the Care Center a few times, which couldn’t have been a better experience.

“I absolutely fell in love with every single person at Angela Hospice,” she said. “From the volunteers, to spiritual care, to nurses and doctors…everybody was just so kind to her.”

So when John mentioned volunteering at Angela Hospice, Anne jumped at the chance. Both had recently retired from the Dearborn Police Department and the timing seemed perfect. (Anne actually went back to a different job about four days after retiring, but that’s a different story.)

John said the thought of volunteering all started for him at a mass at St. Edith. The priest had been talking about trying to discern what God’s plan for you is and to use your God-given talents. John thought he didn’t have any, but then their oldest son, who had recently started volunteering at a hospice in Lansing, was telling them stories about his time there. Then John saw that Angela Hospice needed volunteers. He called and they got into a new volunteer class the following week. The rest is history.

“[Volunteering] is just so powerful,” John said. “It changed our lives.”

And they both hope to keep volunteering…well, forever.

“I don’t see an end to it,” Anne said before looking at John. “Do you?”

“Nope,” he smiled.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sandy Barr

Name: Sandy Barr

How long have you been a volunteer?
Almost three years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Makes salads for the caregiver suppers, mailings, BBQs, is a Flower Bud, and has worked events.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
The reason I wanted to volunteer at Angela Hospice is because I knew it was a good place. They helped my mother, who had cancer, and we all have family members that they’ve been great with.

Before I retired, I worked with Angela Hospice at the credit union. They were one of my accounts. So when I retired I said, “That’s what I want to do.”

Sandy has volunteered in a variety of areas.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
The diversity. They can use you in so many different areas. There’s always a need somewhere.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I think the most rewarding of what I’ve done has been the flower arranging. You know, fixing the flowers, and then bringing them around to the rooms. The people just seem so happy when you bring in a beautiful vase of flowers you had put together.

Support Angela Hospice On #GivingTuesday

Do you love to give and help others? Then participate in #GivingTuesday on Tuesday, November 29, the day after Cyber Monday!

So what can you do on this international day of giving? We have a few ideas:
  • Take an #UNselfie. Show the world why Angela Hospice means so much to you. Download this flyer and post it on social media. Be sure to tag us on Facebook and Twitter so we can put your photo in our #UNselfie album!
  • Give your time. Help out a neighbor in need or volunteer
  • Donate money to your favorite charity, like Angela Hospice, which you can donate to here. 
  • Write a wonderful review. Organizations depend on kind words from people like you to help spread the word about what we do. Write a review about Angela Hospice. 
Those are just a few ideas for what you could do on #GivingTuesday! It doesn't matter what exactly you do, what matters is that you give in some way. Let us know how you plan on participating!

#GivingTuesday started in 2012 when the New York's 92nd Street Y was inspired by the core Jewish value of tikkun olam, which means, “repairing the world." Now, a few short years later, there are over 30,000 partners participating in 68 countries, including us.

If you have any questions, please contact Dana Casadei at (734) 953-6053 or email dcasadei@angelahospice.us.

Employee Spotlight: Krystie Davis

Name: Krystie Davis, RN Home Care Case Manager

How long have you worked here?
Four years.

What made you decide to work here?
While going through Wayne State University Nursing School I worked as a caregiver at an assisted living facility, and Medtech. I loved that with this job I got to know residents and families, and I really enjoyed working with the elderly. There was a hospice RN who used to come to the facility I worked at, and she knew I was going through nursing school, so she would talk to me and teach me things about hospice. I found her job very interesting and knew I wanted to find out more about it.

When I was in my community clinical rotation my last semester of nursing school, I was able to shadow Karen Cafeo (Angela Hospice Director of Quality Systems and RN) for a day and I loved it. A few months after graduation and taking my boards, I put in an application and was hired right away for the position.

What is a typical day for you?
Not sure if there is really a “typical” day for a RN Case Manager. Every day is different and a new adventure, which I really enjoy about my job.

In the morning I always listen to voicemails from the night/weekend before. On Monday mornings I make phone calls to my patients/families and set-up my schedule for the week. I see around 4-6 patients a day. I do most of my charting in the evening when I get home for a few hours each night. On Fridays I make tuck-in phone calls for the weekend, making sure my patients have all their prospective needs met, enough medications and supplies, etc., before the weekend.

Krystie (far right) at last year's Light Up a Life gala.
What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
Knowing that I am able to make a difference in my patients’ and families’ lives, and making sure their wishes at the end of life come true.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
I worked an on-call shift for Christmas Day a few years ago and I was called out to a death visit. After driving at least an hour away (and wondering this whole time if this patient was really in our service area!) I arrived at the patient’s home. The patient’s son and daughter greeted me and I offered my condolences. They took me to the back family room where their Dad was in his recliner chair, sat right in front of a huge picture window overlooking a lake. It was snowing and such a beautiful scene. The family said Dad died peacefully in his favorite chair, doing what he loved most, overlooking the lake and watching the snow fall. I have had many moments like this while working for Angela Hospice; these special moments always remind me why I love doing my job. We allow patients to stay in their home and die peacefully with their loved ones surrounding them; what a great gift.

Volunteer Spotlight: John and Lucy Stern

For John and Lucy Stern the We Honor Veterans program at Angela Hospice is much more than just a way to gain volunteer hours. It’s a deep-rooted passion.

“I always call it a labor of love, and labor isn’t really a good word. It’s more of an activity of love,” John said. “We just really, really enjoy it.”

Their enjoyment is clear in a variety of ways but it’s really seen when you look at the program’s numbers. John and Lucy – who spearheaded We Honor Veterans at Angela Hospice – along with the help of 12 other volunteers, have performed over 400 ceremonies since the inception of the program. The most impressive part? They’ve done all those ceremonies in less than four years.

“We thought it was just going to be a couple ceremonies here and there,” Lucy said.

The Sterns first got the idea for bringing the program to Angela Hospice when Lucy found an article about We Honor Veterans in a nursing journal. Lucy, a now retired nurse who has been connected to Angela Hospice since it first began “back in the stone age,” then went to a few staff members about the program. All of them were enthusiastic about it but said they didn’t have time to run something like that. They did encourage John and Lucy to go ahead with it though.

“It’s just something that I totally embraced, because being a veteran I’m pro-veteran,” said John, who served in the Air Force from 1962-1966. “When Lucy brought that home I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”

After getting the go-ahead from Angela Hospice, John and Lucy did what most do in this day and age; they went online to get more information about it and get the ball rolling, which hasn’t stopped over the last few years. On top of doing over 400 pinning ceremonies they have already achieved Level 2 status for the program and are working on Level 3, which they said is the hardest of the four levels to achieve.

Now the program runs as smoothly and efficiently as – well, an army watch. First they get a patient’s information. Then they make a phone call where they give their “spiel” about what the program is. John said they usually get a pretty immediate yes or no. If a family says “yes” then they set up a date for the ceremony, which the Sterns are willing to do whenever and wherever works best for the patient.

“Every time we go to a family and the veteran, we thank them…that’s special to us,” John said. “It doesn’t matter if there are two people or 20 people, or 50 people or 100 people, or just the veteran.

“It’s just a treat and a thrill…and see the reaction of the family and loved one,” John continued.

John and Lucy outside the
Care Center.
Each ceremony becomes as unique as the individual receiving it. They’ve done ceremonies in the Angela Hospice Care Center kitchen and local restaurants and one time in a garage that had been turned into an apartment. The locations may change, but each veteran receives a certificate, some military pins, a couple of thank-you letters, and a love blanket made by one of the volunteers. The veterans aren’t the only ones who receive something though, so do John and Lucy.

“There’s a lot of family interaction that we wind up being blessed with seeing,” Lucy said.

One example would be when a daughter set up her dad’s We Honor Veterans ceremony at a restaurant he went to weekly. John and Lucy showed up much to the man’s surprise to perform the ceremony. He was a little more apprehensive than his wife and daughter about it until, as John puts it, his daughter laid down the law and told him he wasn’t getting out of it.

“It was kind of funny,” Lucy said. “Especially when we realized the guy they were talking about was the one standing in the corner with all these other people not letting him leave.”

“He realized it wasn’t a bad thing so he sat there next to his wife and let us do the ceremony,” John said.

Another example would be the man who was living in his ex-wife’s garage. He was a Vietnam veteran and had friends coming to town to celebrate his life, which seemed like the perfect time to do a pinning ceremony.

They presented him the certificate and he told them that was enough; that they didn’t need to do the whole presentation. But John continued. What followed was a few of the most memorable moments the Sterns have seen since the program began.

“His buddies were cheering him on,” Lucy said. “I think the most remarkable part was watching him try to be kind of macho…and he had a young teenage son. His dad is saying he doesn’t need this blanket thing and it didn’t matter. He might not have needed it but his son was like, ‘Dad, I’m taking that for me.’

“That sense of pride for what his dad did…then his dad was a whole lot different,” Lucy continued. “It was just amazing.”

While they’re both far too humble to admit it, what the Sterns have done for Angela Hospice has been pretty amazing too.

Volunteer Spotlight: Brenda McClellan

Name: Brenda McClellan

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?
Started in the Care Center, now volunteers in medical records and helps with the mailings.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I had some extra time. I didn’t want to get a paying job because I didn’t know how regular I’d be able to do that because of other commitments so I decided to volunteer. I started looking for a place to volunteer and I have friends who volunteer here (one from high school, the other from college). They recommended it, so I started.

Brenda works in the Medical Records department.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I just like being active and out with people. I’m a quiet person but I just like being out with people, talking, chatting, here and there. 

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
When I was taking the classes with Syndie I enjoyed meeting all the women in there and their different walks of life, what they planned to do here. Some of them are still here, some of them aren’t. I enjoyed working in the Care Center. I was there just a short while because I didn’t think it was a perfect fit for me.

I guess just making a difference – helping out – is reason enough for me.

"Being Mortal" Panel

A still from the documentary "Being Mortal."
On November 9 join us for a free screening of the Frontline documentary "Being Mortal," which is based on Dr. Atul Gawande's best-selling book of the same name.

A panel discussion will follow the screening at Madonna University. Read more about the panelists below.

Kathleen A. Aseltyne
Assistant Professor, Hospice and Palliative Studies, Department of Nursing, Madonna University
Dr. Aseltyne completed her PhD. in 2013 at Oakland University in Counseling and Education, and also holds a Certificate in Bereavement from Madonna University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and has worked in various mental health settings including community mental health, and cancer and bereavement support groups.

Dr. James Boal
Angela Hospice Medical Director
A graduate of Wayne State University’s College of Medicine, Dr. James Boal became employed in July 2000 as Angela Hospice’s full-time hospice medical director. Prior to his employment at Angela Hospice, Dr. Boal worked in the Pediatric Critical Care Unit at Providence Hospital, and completed his residency at the Family Practice at Providence Hospital. He has also held positions as a research assistant at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Boal earned the designation Fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and is a recipient of the Dream Team Award from the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Michigan.

Anna Kostaroff
Consultant/Owner ASK Consulting LLC
Anna Kostaroff received her BSN from Biola University, and is a certified hospice and palliative care nurse. She's worked in various positions in acute, hospice and palliative care, and research. After receiving her MSH from Madonna’s Hospice and Palliative Studies program, she went on to create and coordinate palliative care programs at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital and DMC Harper/Hutzel Hospital. She also received an MA in Bioethics and Health Policy from Loyola University, Chicago, and has been instrumental in developing and chairing hospital ethics committees. She has been an adjunct assistant professor in the graduate studies program at Madonna since 2008, teaching interdisciplinary and nurse practitioner students. Anna also offers solutions in clinical ethics and palliative care to health care systems and families through ASK Consulting LLC. Professional memberships include the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), and the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA). She's currently serving on the board of the Great Lakes Provisional Group of HPNA.

Diane McDonald
Angela Hospice Director of Spiritual Care
Diane McDonald came to Angela Hospice in 2016 from St. Mary Mercy Hospital, where she served as staff chaplain for the oncology and hospice units, and on the palliative care team. She also served as director of their “No One Dies Alone” program. Ms. McDonald is a certified thanatologist and an advanced bereavement facilitator. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Saint Mary’s College and conducted graduate studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. She is currently a canon law procurator advocate for the Archdiocese of Detroit Marriage Tribunal, and a member of the preaching staff at Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, MI. Her professional memberships include Kappa Gamma Pi, the Association of Death Educators and Counselors, and the American Academy of Bereavement. Ms. McDonald is active in the community and has worked extensively with the homeless.

For more information contact LeAnne Wiersing at (734) 432-5716 or email lwiersing@madonna.edu.

Employee Spotlight: Kristy Hunley

Name: Kristy Hunley, Employee Relations Coordinator

How long have you worked here?
Six-and-a-half years.

What made you decide to work here?
I actually always wanted to be in the hospice field but I’m not clinical so I didn’t really think there was anything out there for me. But when I worked for Metro Medical, which was the local DME (durable medical equipment provider) that worked with Angela Hospice a lot, I talked to people here almost every single day. They always seemed so happy and so fulfilled with the position that they had, no matter what it was. I kept saying, “That’s what I want.” So that’s kind of what brought me over here.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
I heard of them a lot when I was working for the DME…I kind of always knew they were in this area. When Sister Giovanni started to look for donations for Angela Hospice, before it all even existed, she was standing outside at 5 Mile and Middlebelt, which was Arbor Drugs at that point, and my parents had walked out and she had made a comment about what she was doing. My mom wrote her a check and donated to it.

So when I said, “I kind of want to work for Angela Hospice cause I’ve heard about it through work,” that’s when my dad told me that story. It was kind of like it was meant to be.

When asked what a typical day looks like Kristy pointed
at all the stuff on her desk and laughed.
What’s a typical day like for you?
This. (Points at piles of folders on her desk and laughs). I don’t really have a typical day. I might have a thought of what I’m going to do when I walk in the door but that’s thrown out the window as soon as I get in. With all the various tasks that I have…it’s anything and everything.

I do payroll for the entire organization. I’m also the corporate compliance officer. I also manage all the HR functions: the hiring, discipline, termination, workers comp…you name it, I do it.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
I think it’s the people. It’s a totally different atmosphere here than anywhere else. I’ve worked in different offices before, and here -- everyone actually cares about each other. They do live by the core values and the mission statement. It’s not just on a piece of paper.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
I know this place has a big impact on people because there’s times when I’ll call someone to pre-screen them for a position, and they’ll go into a story about when Angela Hospice was there for their grandmother and how it just really imprinted on their heart and how they always wanted to go back to that. Or I’ll talk to people and just ask how familiar they are with Angela Hospice. They’ll go into this detailed story about how Angela Hospice helped them through a rough time or something like that. It kind of stands out because even though I’m not clinically doing anything I feel like I kind of have a part in that because I help get people here and get them ready to go out in the field.

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.