VNA Shows Appreciation at Annual Volunteer Breakfast

VNA Shows Appreciation at Annual Volunteer Breakfast

At the heart of any nonprofit are the volunteers that dedicate their time and energy to be rewarded with no money, but instead, with a sense of purpose and belief in a mission. On Saturday, the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Northwest Indiana showed thanks to their dedicated volunteers at their annual Volunteer Breakfast. These volunteers deserve the appreciation as they allow the VNA to provide compassionate aging, hospice, palliative, and grief support services.

Held at St. Paul Catholic Church, the volunteers and VNA staff came together for a hearty breakfast to reflect on their work and to recognize individuals who have given an extraordinary amount of time to VNA’s mission of providing superior patient-focused care. This year’s breakfast was a little different, as it merged with VNA’s annual Staff Awards Banquet. This brought all the people behind the organization closer together.

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“Traditionally, at this breakfast, our staff have put together a tribute song for the volunteers and they’ll stand up at the end to sing it,” said Maria Galka, VNA’s Director of Development. “They have a wonderful relationship; our staff depends on the volunteers. We couldn’t do most of what we do without the volunteers we have.”

For many of the volunteers, the VNA is a deeply personal organization. They may have had family or friends use their hospice services or experience their grief counseling. Chris Johnston, who has spent over 300 hours volunteering for VNA over the past year, first started a couple years back after retiring.

“I have a friend who was a volunteer here and once I retired, she asked what I was going to do with my time and said, ‘have I got a job for you,’” Johnston said. “We’ve had family that’s been at their Hospice Center before so I knew about them. I think it’s important to give back. I worked full-time for a long while, and now I get to help other people and give to those in need – even if it’s a hug or just a listening ear sometimes.”

A number of staff members also received honors recognizing their time and dedication to the VNA.

“It’s very important for us to give our team that recognition,” said Cindy Kaariainen-Tougaw, VNA Board President. “They work so hard, and they need to be recognized for that. Without them and our volunteers, we couldn’t serve all of Northwest Indiana and take in patients regardless of their ability to pay.”

VNA named Josie Milich, LPN, their Caregiver of the Year. Jill Wagner received honors as the Support Staff of the Year, and Charity Powell, RN, claimed the Tricia Marie Simpson Russell, RN “Good Nurse of the Year” Award. The VNA also named George Sloan, M.D., their Physician of the Year.

To learn more about the VNA and their incredible services, please visit