Volunteer Spotlight:Marge Vendittelli

Name: Marge Vendittelli

How long have you been a volunteer?
16 years this fall.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Patient care in the Care Center, mailings, and the Tree of Life.

Why did you decide to become a volunteer?
I had an aunt that lived in Berkley and her daughter was able to keep her at home with the help of a hospice. They were so good and my cousin said she could not have taken care of her mother if it wasn’t for hospice helping her out.

Then I had just gone through cancer - now I’m a survivor of 16 years - and I live not too far away. I would go by Angela Hospice and think, “Oh, I should do something to give back.” So I came here and I went to the classes, and have been here for almost 16 years.

I think I’ve received way more than I’ve given back. It’s just an awesome place to be. The nurses, the aides, the other volunteers, Syndie [Best], Melanie [Miller], just everybody is so nice here. And it’s a beautiful facility.

When I first started, the Care Center was in this [the administration] building. I have friends who have had people here at Angela Hospice and they can’t praise it enough, so it makes me feel really proud of it.

Marge (second from left) often volunteers
in the Care Center.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
The patients.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Over the years there’s been so many. There were a couple ALS patients that were here for three years or more, and you get kind of attached to them. It’s really sad when they pass away. They were very special people. To me that is the worst possible thing you could have. It makes you feel so grateful for your health.

This one ALS patient asked me if I would scratch her leg, she had an itch, and she couldn’t do anything for herself. That probably was one of the better but harder things.

Volunteer Spotlight: Virginia Walter

Name: Virginia Walter

How long have you been a volunteer?
About a year.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Patient care in the Care Center and home care.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I retired from my nursing career, almost three years ago, and I wanted to be able to give back some of my skills that I’ve learned over time, and be in touch with families and patients. It just felt very comfortable for me to do that.

Why Angela Hospice?
I’ve known Angela Hospice for many years because of friends and families who have been involved with it over time, and I’ve always admired the work that they do.

As I told Syndie [Angela Hospice Director of Volunteer Services] when I interviewed with her…I was seeking something in my life. I wasn’t quite sure what, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the work that I’m doing here.

Virginia volunteers in the Care Center and home care.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Connecting with patients and families.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Working with a gentleman in home care. He was very concerned about properly disposing of some of his treasures after his wife died. He wanted to know where he could donate them to go to some good. I was able to help facilitate him finding a place that he could donate them and he was just thrilled.

They gave him a plaque of recognition that he had donated and he kept it on his bedside table at his home. Then he died shortly after that. I was struck at how much joy it gave him that he was able to do that.

Volunteer Spotlight: Judy Thibert

Name: Judy Thibert

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?
Patient care in the Care Center, events, ice cream socials, and gardening.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I’ve always volunteered. My kids are adopted, they’re from Korea, and when my daughter came home the social worker asked if I wanted to volunteer through the adoption agency. When babies would come home I would go out to the airport and get them off the plane and deliver them to the parents. So that’s where I started. I did that up until 2011. Then after that I did a lot with my kids after school.

Then as they got older it kind of dropped off and then my parents got sick and my dad had dementia. For two-and-a-half years we had aides in the house and they were godsends. I mean, I don’t know what we would have done without them. And seeing them and how much I appreciated them I thought, when I have time again – because I didn’t volunteer at that time – I said, this is what I want to do. It’s kind of like paying it forward. And I know how much the family appreciates people…I knew how much I appreciated them.

Judy can be found working in many areas,
including our ice cream socials.
Why Angela Hospice?
My dad was here. They were in the house for two months and then he came to the Care Center for four months.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Working with the families and the patients, and getting to meet different people.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
My hands are always cold and you’ll get some patients that like to hold your hands. There was this one patient I went in to see and she didn’t talk much. She was pretty subdued and quiet. Every once in a while she’d wake up and look up at me; she wanted to hold my hand. I hardly ever heard her talk but she took my hand one day and held it, and her eyes got real big and she looks at me and goes, “Your hands are cold!” And it was like, well you do talk! It was kind of surprising.

It’s just those kinds [of moments]. We had one patient, she reminded me of my grandmother, and I’d go in and I’d sit with her. And again, she’d just take my hands and hold them and say, “Your hands are so cold.” I’d go, “I know that’s why I come in and sit with you so you can warm my hands up.” And she would. She’d just sit there and rub my hands. It was very sweet.

The Calm in the Storm

At the end of last year’s Laughter Lifts You Up there were nearly 80 auction items to be picked up by guests. As the winning bidder numbers went up on the screen, expressions of joy could be heard throughout the banquet room, and then all the winners headed towards the back, rushing to get their prizes. For some, seeing a crowd of women stampeding your way would have been overwhelming -- but not for volunteer Sue Flatley.

“I tend to stay calm,” Sue laughed. “I don’t seem to get rattled by that whole lot.”

The annual women’s event was only the second time Sue had led auction close-out, and all those prizes were picked up in under an hour. Her first was at Light Up a Life 2014.

No matter how crazy things got Sue still had a calmness about her, making sure that items were successfully signed out and given to the correct guest. There’s something about her soothing voice that makes it feel like everything will be fine, even when there are dozens of excited women trying to get their prizes.

Sue, who has been an Angela Hospice volunteer for nearly 13 years, used to do the summer reading program at one of the local libraries, which also had long lines of people waiting. Working auction close-out was a piece of cake next to that.

“You’d have these lines of people,” she said. “It just didn’t faze me. I’d just keep saying, ‘We’re thinking of you, we’re gonna get right to you.’”

Sue (right) at 2014's Light Up a Life, where she
led auction close-out for the first time.
It was that composure and coolness that helped things go so smoothly at both Laughter Lifts You Up and Light Up a Life. It also helps that her favorite part about the event is meeting and talking to people.

Even though things did go smoothly at both events it was still a little daunting when she got asked to do it.

“[I thought] you want me to do what?” she laughed. “It’s nice to be asked but it is a little scary because it’s a big responsibility.”

This February will be the fifth time that Sue has worked Laughter Lifts You Up. She said things have changed a little over the years but there’s one thing that’s stayed the same: how impressed she is by how much people give.

“It just amazes me the generosity of people,” she said. “They’re very generous in giving to Angela Hospice.”

So is Sue, who volunteers in a variety of departments.

When she started volunteering she worked in bereavement and doing the occasional mailing. But since she retired a few years ago she’s been able to get a lot more involved. Now she works all the annual events, creates flower arrangements for patient rooms and sitting areas throughout the Care Center, and helps with the ice cream socials on Fridays.

Like some other volunteers, Sue had prior hospice experience before becoming a volunteer. Her dad, who lived in Arkansas, was in hospice care for about a month before dying in 1998. Her mom was in hospice in a hospital. Both of her in-laws used hospice as well. Seeing all the support she received while her dad was in hospice was what inspired Sue to become a volunteer.

Sue also volunteers as a "flower bud."
“When I came back home I waited a year or so and then I decided that I should…that hospice would be something I would be interested in getting involved with since they were such a big help with my dad and my mother in Arkansas,” Sue said.

Her prior experience with hospice gives her an extra special skill when it comes to working with patients and their families.

“I think it gives you compassion,” Sue said. “You kind of understand what the families are going through.”

Add Sue’s compassion to her ever-growing list of reasons she’s a fantastic volunteer.