VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana strives to make best days possible for people during their most vulnerable moments. Each year, members of the VNA community gather to celebrate the caregivers, volunteers, and supporters that make best days possible. This year’s celebration took place in person on Monday, March 15 at Avalon Manor, for the first time since before the pandemic began.
VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana, a leader in not-for-profit health care for over 50 years, serves over 1,500 patients annually through a variety of services. Each day they care for Northwest Indiana patients and clients through their five service lines; Hospice care, Palliative care, Meals on Wheels of Porter County, a Medical Guardian alert system, and the Phoenix Center.
Bob Franko, President and CEO of VNA Hospice, served as host for the night and shared his appreciation of the dedicated caregivers and generous community support that makes it possible for VNA Hospice to serve the community.
“This is a night for us to really celebrate our staff and supporters. Our staff gives so much of themselves, and they work so hard,” Franko said. “It’s really one of my favorite nights of the year."
Maria Galka, Director of Development for VNA Hospice, shared “It’s an opportunity for us to gather with each other. We invite our volunteers and supporters that we don’t get to see all the time, and for me, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect.”
The evening honored some of the outstanding community supporters as well as VNA employees that have gone above and beyond in their roles over the last year. The awards included the Joyce Alexa Advocacy Award, presented to Carlos Rivero and Kaye Frataccia; VNA Caregivers of the Year Benjamin Polhemus and Amber Adkins; VNA “Best Days” Employee of the year Erica Kerkes; Tricia’s “Good Nurse of the Year” Morgan Lambacher, and VNA Physician of the Year Dr. Joseph Venditti. Several staff were also recognized for their years of service, including Deb Farrington with a remarkable 35 years.
As each recipient was presented their award, they shared kind words about their colleagues; that many are as equally deserving of these awards and have impacted their careers in such positive ways. The award recipients offered a snapshot of how patient-centered and compassionate the entire staff at VNA Hospice truly is.
“There really are so many people here that are so kind and compassionate and deserve an award. It is really a heartfelt night,” Brenda Rogers, clinical director of hospice and palliative care for the VNA, said.
The VNA also awards scholarships to nursing students each year through the Tricia’s scholarship program. The scholarship, endowed by the family, friends and coworkers of late VNA nurse Tricia Marie Simpson Russell, is given yearly in her memory to support the next generation of nurses.
“The Tricia Scholarship is awarded to those who want to become a nurse or want to further their education in nursing,” Galka said. This year was competitive once again with over 40 applicants. Through the generosity of the scholarship donors, four $3,000 scholarships were awarded to students in various stages of their nursing journey.
Staff and Supporters Recognized:
2021 Joyce Alexa Advocacy Award - Jesse Harper, Center Township Trustee
2022 Joyce Alexa Advocacy Award - Carlos Rivero and Kaye Frataccia
VNA Caregiver of the Year – Benjamin Polhemus and Amber Adkins
VNA “Best Days’ Employee of the Year – Erica Kerkes
Tricia’s Good Nurse of the Year – Morgan Lambacher
VNA Physician of the Year – Dr. Joe Venditti
Five years of service:
Gail Little, RN
Scott Anderson, Maintenance
Lynnett Heimberg, RN
Angela LeNeave, IT
15 years of service:
Michelle Olson, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP, Director of Human Resources
35 years of service:
Tricia’s Scholarship Recipients:
For more information about VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana, visit www.vnanwi.org.