Volunteer Spotlight: Barbara Keppen

Name: Barbara Keppen

How long have you been a volunteer?
12 years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Helps in bereavement and does occasional mailings.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I lost my husband and so I know what they’re all going through. If I can be any help in the bereavement department to make it easier for them…it’s a wonderful thing.

Why Angela Hospice?
Because of losing my husband. I saw the ad for volunteers and came in. Then once I did the training I decided I wanted to get into the bereavement department. I got into the office part of it and it’s very rewarding.

Barbara (left) with Angela Hospice staff, Margaret Levine.
What is your favorite part about volunteering? 
Just everything. It’s a wonderful organization and everyone is so nice. I just love it. Walking into this place is like getting a big hug.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Helping everyone or anyone. I can’t specify any one thing. I mean anything you do  going to the memorials, the support groups  it’s all wonderful. It makes you feel like you’re doing something for someone, and I feel that’s what I’m here for.

Volunteer Spotlight: Liam Neary

Name: Liam Neary

How long have you been a volunteer?
One-and-a-half years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Delivering products and medications to patients.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
My wife Charlotte is a volunteer and I saw how happy volunteering made her.

It was the eight weeks of volunteer training with Syndie [Angela Hospice Director of Volunteer Services] that changed my life. It became an honor to be able to do this for someone. I’ve taken medications on a Saturday in a snowstorm to Belleville…it’s just something that I’m happy to do. 

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Giving back; that’s it. It’s the joy that you get from helping someone.

Liam delivers products and medications to patients so
he's often on the move.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I guess the thanks that you get from someone. Often times it’s not the patient themselves because they are bedridden or they’re elderly or they’re in another part of the house, but their caregiver who is so appreciative of what you have done.

Employee Spotlight: Michelle Willingham-Tubbs

Name: Michelle Willingham-Tubbs, Home Care Charge Nurse

How long have you worked here?
15 years in August.

What made you decide to work here?
I had a friend that came here and just said what a wonderful place it was, and I love working in hospice because I’ve worked in hospice prior. This just had such a family, caring atmosphere. Everybody felt like…they cared so much about the patients. And that’s what it was about: caring about each other and caring about the patients. You have that in some agencies but it just went from the top to the bottom here. So it just felt like a good fit for me.

What’s a typical day like for you?
A lot of phone calls, a lot of multi-tasking, and trying to think out of the box to get as many people served as possible. It’s a little bit of a juggling act; serving those we have and bringing as many people on as possible.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
Hearing people’s stories; everybody has a story. I think that’s an honor to hear what they have to say and it’s a privilege for us to be in their lives. That’s probably my favorite part.

Through the years I’ve heard so many amazing stories, and no matter where I’m at, if I have my badge on or something that says Angela Hospice, I have never once heard a bad story. Someone will always say, “Oh, we recommend Angela Hospice,” or “My family member was with you,” and it’s always positive, and it’s always great, and it’s always very encouraging.

On the rare occasion when we’re having a really busy day and maybe things are not going the way I want them to it always seems like somebody will be on the other end of the phone or I’ll walk into somebody and they’ll say, “You made the difference, you’re an angel.” I think that’s what keeps us all going.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
I was case managing at the time, at St. Mary’s Hospital, and I was there with a patient and the family. The patient was…we thought kind of like transitional, active phase of dying, and we knew that this patient loved music. At that time we had one of our spiritual care persons that day that happened to play an instrument and this patient just kind of responded. The whole room, the whole floor lit up, and just to see that, it really does make a difference because I had been trying to encourage the family to do something like that on their own. But when they saw that, it just made the difference. And then they kind of carried it on and this person had a nice, peaceful death. They just couldn’t say enough about us.

Volunteer Spotlight: A Calling to Help

When David Bowie died at the beginning of the year it devastated the music industry and fans across the world. But for Angela Hospice volunteer Rosanne Stark, it brought up a very special memory with a patient.

“This was maybe the day before Richard passed,” Rosanne said. “I left [Angela Hospice] and I heard three songs by David Bowie on the radio. I started saying out loud, ‘This is for Richard. I know it is.’”*

Richard was an Angela Hospice patient that Rosanne had been working with. The two would often discuss their love for music, including David Bowie.

Later that same night she came back to Angela Hospice, still thinking about the songs she had heard. When she arrived at Richard’s room that evening, she told him about it. He opened his eyes, looked at his sisters, and jokingly said, “Get outta here!”

His sisters then showed Rosanne some videos of him from before he was sick, when he was in a band. He passed away the next day.

“I’ll never forget that story about David Bowie,” she said. “I think that Richard and David Bowie are jamming in heaven.”

Getting to know patients and fellow volunteers is one of Rosanne’s favorite parts about volunteering, which she’s been doing since 2012.

Currently, Rosanne volunteers a couple shifts a week in the Care Center as a compassionate companion, once a month for mass, and in a few other areas. Some would think that’s a lot of time to spend at Angela Hospice, but every time she thinks about cutting back she changes her mind. She’s going to keep going at this pace as long as possible.

“I’m here quite a bit and whenever I leave I feel more blessed,” Rosanne said.

There’s one other very special thing Rosanne does as a volunteer at Angela Hospice: mentor new volunteers in the Care Center.

“I felt very honored to be asked,” she said humbly. “I really feel like this is a good match for me and that I’m meant to be here.”

Rosanne often volunteers in the Care Center.
Her history seems to indicate the same thing. As a school counselor and teacher she gained organization and good listening skills, two key components of a hospice volunteer. While those have helped her as a volunteer, there’s something else that ultimately brought her here.

“For many people it’s a calling,” Rosanne said. “Sometimes it’s helpful if you’ve already experienced someone passing in your life so you’re not so fearful of what it’s like here. Sometimes it’s important when people have a sense of a power greater than themselves.”

For Rosanne, losing her father was that experience. She had known about hospice from friends who had previously used it. While her mother worried that choosing hospice was like signing her husband’s death certificate, Rosanne knew it wasn’t like that. She knew hospice was a place her father could have a dignified death.

“I was always drawn to Angela Hospice,” she said. “But when my father passed I experienced his death, and it was a very life-changing experience. He seemed to lead me here also.”

That experience led to Rosanne not only becoming a volunteer, but one of Angela Hospice’s biggest advocates.

“I feel like the work I do here is really not about me but it’s about the service, and whatever I receive is a bonus,” Rosanne said. “I feel very inspired when I’m here. I think that God is inspiring me.”

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

Congrats to Angela Hospice's President & CEO Margot Parr!

Last week, our very own President & CEO Margot Parr was recognized at the annual Cookie Gala, where she received her “One Tough Cookie” recognition from the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan!

Margot was one of 23 women and 6 men to receive recognition, all of whom are inspiring the next generation of leaders, and positively impacting the workplace and the community. She was nominated by former Girl Scout and Angela Hospice’s Board of Directors Chairman, Barb Hendrickson.

Congrats Margot!

Employee Spotlight: Kelly Kovach-Collicott

Name: Kelly Kovach-Collicott, Social Worker

How long have you worked here?
Three years.

What made you decide to work here?
I always knew I wanted to be a social worker but I kind of fell into business related jobs so I went that route for a little bit. Then I had the opportunity to start my Masters in Social Work. I knew the minute I started that that I wanted to work for Angela Hospice.

I made sure that one of my internships during the masters’ program was at a hospice. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be here at Angela’s. But eventually I made it here and just going from the business world to hospice, hospice is something I can believe in and really, truly feel that I’m helping people. So it’s much more pleasant than crunching numbers.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
Just being in the community and being Catholic in the community. Angela Hospice is what everybody used.

What’s a typical day like for you?
For me, I am an Admissions Social Worker, so I’m often one of the very first people that the families are meeting and talking to. So I go out and educate families and patients about hospice, and complete all the documentation needed to have them legally be a hospice patient. Then the nurse will come and do the nursing assessment. I could be anywhere on any given day going from one patient to another, covering any patient in any of the areas Angela Hospice visits.

Kelly's day often takes her all over the area,
including Angela Hospice.
What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
The relief that people have when we tell them we can help them.

I think the best thing, outside of the relief we offer the families, is how across the board all the departments, certainly the social work department, but nurses and everyone else too, is willing to help each other. There’s no sense of competition or loss of knowledge by sharing that knowledge with everybody else. We all work to make each other better.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
There was a pediatric patient and the family was having a very, very difficult time with the loss of their child. I was able to be there after the patient died and help the family to work together through their loss.