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.

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