Volunteer Spotlight: Elaine Kokko

Name: Elaine Kokko

How long have you been a volunteer?
Four years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
Bereavement, memorials, the Holiday Children’s Workshop, makes salads for weekly Caregiver Suppers, development, mailings, and annual events.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
One of my good friends is a nurse on B-wing in the Care Center and I wanted to give back.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
The people that I work with, that I volunteer with. The social workers in the Bereavement Department are really wonderful. When you walk into Angela Hospice it’s just a wonderful place to be.

Elaine (center) at last year's Volunteer Appreciation dinner.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Oh gosh, they are all favorite moments. (laughs) There isn’t really a favorite moment…just the fact that I’m so honored to be able to wear the badge. 

Employee Spotlight: Bernadine Hillman

Name, title: Bernadine Hillman, Home Care Aide/CHPNA

How long have you worked here?
Over 12 years.

What made you decide to work here?
When I was working for a home care agency that was located in Livonia they had assigned me a patient that had dementia, and she was on hospice, and she passed. I didn’t realize how emotionally attached I had become to her until her daughter told me she was dying…so that’s when I decided ok, I think that’s my calling; to get into hospice. And I’m glad I did.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
Through a CNA program that I was taking at the time, they had listed some different agencies that were hiring.

Bernadine has worked at Angela Hospice for over 12 years.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I go to my first visit, where I’m welcomed by the family, or the patient if they stay alone. Then I get them prepared for their personal care, setting out what I would need to give them a bath or assist them in the shower. Then I move on to my next patient and basically the same thing happens all over again until the end of the day.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
Making the patients and their families happy.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
There was one particular couple -- they were in their nineties and had been married over 70 years -- and the gentleman was on hospice. He had some type of ailment that caused him to hemorrhage, which he couldn’t control and couldn’t stop. So when that time came his wife knew and he already knew it wasn’t going to be long before he passed. When he started hemorrhaging, the nurse was there to slow down the bleeding by applying pressure. He told his wife, “I love you.” That was so touching because he knew that he didn’t have too much longer.

Volunteer Spotlight: Char Kramer

Char (center) has been an Angela Hospice volunteer
for almost five years.
For volunteer Char Kramer the idea of becoming a volunteer at Angela Hospice happened through the power of suggestion.

Char had recently retired and was looking for somewhere to volunteer when her friend, and fellow Angela Hospice volunteer, Holly Hodgson mentioned that she was going to sign up to volunteer at Angela Hospice. Char jumped at the chance to volunteer for hospice.

“She told me she was going to sign up for hospice and I thought, ‘What a great idea!’” said Char, whose mother was a hospice patient in Minnesota in 2007.

Char, who has now been a volunteer for almost five years, may not have known a whole lot about Angela Hospice, but she did have firsthand experience of how wonderful hospice care can be. Char said thanks to hospice her mom was able to receive expert care during the last chapter of her life.

“I don’t think anything can beat that,” she said.

So in the fall of 2011 she took the classes to become an Angela Hospice volunteer. She originally volunteered in the Care Center and helped feed patients, something she loved to do, but then she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2012. Due to the radiation treatment she was receiving, she stepped back from volunteering in the Care Center and turned to a new department: development, where she now primarily helps with mailings and the annual events.

“They just sounded fun,” Char said. “I’m a big people person so I thought that would be fun to help out with all these people and get to see some of the events while you’re there.”

Plus, Char knows all the events benefit a really good cause, another bonus to working them. Since she started volunteering in Development Char has worked almost every one of the annual events, ranging from Arbor Day to Laughter Lifts You Up. While the events are all very different Char said she mainly sells raffle tickets in some way, shape, or form at each event. Her favorite part about it? Taking everybody’s money, she joked.

Char (left) primarily sells raffle tickets at many of the
Angela Hospice annual events.
“I just think it’s wonderful how the people are donating to a good cause,” Char said.

She sees it in action too. There was one event where she sold so many tickets that she had to empty her apron three times because of all the sales she had made.

 “Angela Hospice is the trick,” she said. “People come for them.”

Including seven of Char’s friends, who are all attending Laughter Lifts You Up this month and have already told her they want raffle tickets.

“I said, ‘Why do you want the raffle tickets?’ They said, ‘Because it’s for a really good cause.’” Char said

Laughter Lifts You Up is one of Char’s favorite events because she always loves the comedian. She also really likes the fall’s annual Light Up a Life Gala, which often has great music. But she joked that her all-time favorite of the events is the one with the most single men at it.

Char, who also volunteers at her church and for the Michigan Philharmonic, may volunteer primarily in the Development Department, but there is one story from her time in the Care Center that has stuck with her. There was a patient who needed help bathing who went on and on thanking them for their help and telling them how nice they were.

“That memory has stuck with me for so long because we complain about the silliest things, and there she was, so appreciative of everything we did for her,” Char said. “Then I came home and thought, ‘I’m not going to complain about anything anymore.’

“Of course, I probably did the next day,” she laughed. “That was really humbling for me.”

Char’s whole experience volunteering at Angela Hospice has been humbling, among other things.

“I’ve had a lot of volunteer jobs and hospice is one that I really, really enjoy,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends there. I just love it.”