Angela Hospice Choir Receives LeadingAge Michigan Award

This week, the Angela Hospice Choir received LeadingAge Michigan’s Group Volunteer of the Year Award! In honor of the recognition, we chatted with Angela Hospice’s Director of Volunteer Services, Syndie Best, about the nomination process, why she thought they would be a good group to nominate, and how she told the group they won.

To read more about the choir check out the volunteer spotlight we recently ran on choir director Evelyn Wojkowiak.

The choir at the LeadingAge Michigan awards.
How did you find out about the LeadingAge Michigan awards?
Marti [Coplai, Angela Hospice Executive Director] forwarded me the information. She knew about them. Not a lot of hospices have choirs, so when she found out that we have a choir she said, "Hey, you should see if you can nominate them."

What was the nomination process like?
LeadingAge only does one group award so they wanted to know the history of the group, what it is they do, how long they’ve been doing it, what kind of impact it has on the organization, and feedback from residents.

I had to do some digging to find out the origins because the people that I thought were the originals were like, "Oh no, you have to talk to so-and-so. They were here before me." So then I’d call them and they’d be like, "Oh no no, you have to talk to so-and-so." It was like a treasure hunt trying to pin down who knew the answers.

It was kind of neat to hear how it started though. Some regular Care Center volunteers were with a patient, who was kind of agitated, and the volunteer started singing and it calmed the patient. A nurse made the observation that she should do that for all their patients because they would love that. The one volunteer that was singing knew another volunteer who had friends who loved to sing, and it sort of blossomed into this group.

Why did you think the choir would be a good group to nominate?
Most of what they do is behind the scenes. They come here and practice every other Wednesday, and just kind of go and do their thing. They are very willing to take requests; they’re very flexible as far as what kind of styles and stuff they sing, and they welcome anybody that wants to join. They are a group that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

Music is such a – it sounds cheesy – but it really is such a gift. There are scientific studies that show that music touches a different part of the brain; it’s interpreted by a different part of the brain than language. So some of our patients who wouldn’t benefit as much even from a volunteer coming to sit and talk with them, music can reach them in a way that nothing else can. That’s a really special thing to be able to offer. And just the comfort that music brings when they sing some of the older music. You watch the patients’ faces light up and you know that they’re remembering happy times…it’s a very nostalgic thing too. I think that they’re a very worthwhile group of people that are doing a very worthwhile thing for our patients.

The choir was filmed a few months ago for the awards.
How did it feel to find out they won?
I was so excited! I could not wait to tell them. They don’t get a lot of pomp and that kind of notoriety, so to be able to go down to their rehearsal and say, “Guess what, you guys?!”

I hadn’t even let on that I had nominated them. I went down there and told them all about LeadingAge, and how they nominate group volunteers. I said, “I was thinking about nominating you guys as a group,” and they were all kind of like, “That’s really cool.” I said, “Actually, I already did nominate you and you guys won!”

You would’ve thought they won the lottery, they were so excited. A couple of them got choked up and weepy. I think they were very grateful to be recognized. None of them are big prima donnas and all, “I’m so great, it’s about time you recognized me.” They were all just very humble and very grateful and very surprised. It was really fun.

What do you think makes the choir special?
There are a lot of people who love to sing, they love music, they love being a part of a musical group, but if you said, “Could you come to a hospice Care Center where you’re going to go in the rooms of patients who are dying?” they would run screaming the other direction.

Then there’s lots of volunteers who are comfortable in this environment but don’t have the gift of music. So to have a group of people who are gifted with music, who are humble and willing to share their gift, and to be comfortable in an environment like this, I think that’s a pretty extraordinary group of people.

No comments:

Post a Comment