Salute to Volunteers
Freddie Banks has been a lighthouse of caring at John J. Kane Regional Centers, Glen Hazel, for 30 years.
Her volunteer assignment – being a friendly companion to the residents – seems simple enough. But she has taken the seemingly ordinary request and answered with extraordinary care.
Her positive presence is felt as soon as she enters the door, greeting every resident and staff members she sees with her signature smile, a warm hello and comforting hug. And she makes a point to carry that warmth through the halls of every nursing unit.
Banks is an active member Monumental Baptist Church and brings her faith with her to the Glen Hazel facility. If the resident request, she will provide a spiritual reading, offer a prayer or sing a hymn.
On the Alzheimer Unit she and her friend, Mamie, are known as the “church ladies.” Ten to 15 residents participate in the church ladies’ Bible discussion. Before she leaves for the day, she spends at least 15 minutes visiting with a blind resident named Johnny. He eagerly waits for her visit when they do Bible trivia and sing.
Banks also helps the homeless in downtown Pittsburgh, volunteers on several church committees and teaches summer youth Bible school.
Former resident is now a volunteer!
Our story of an extraordinary volunteer at the John J. Kane Regional Center in McKeesport would be Ray Coval. Ray’s story is unique as he was a former resident at Kane McKeesport in 2004. He became ill at home, his mailman noticed his mail piling up and called the police. He was taken to McKeesport Hospital and moved to Kane for therapy. He was admitted in February of 2004 and returned home in August of 2004.
Ray returned as a volunteer at Kane McKeesport and will receive his 1,000 hour pin in April. He visits Kane McKeesport every day, Monday through Friday, serving as a Eucharistic Minister in the chapel, serves Mass, escorts residents to and from the service and also is in charge of the elevator to get the residents to their proper floors for lunch. He is a quiet man, yet his kindness and pleasant personality reaches out to all those he encounters.
ELI at the University of Pittsburgh
International students are giving at Kane.
John J. Kane Regional Center Glen Hazel has happily become acquainted with a youthful group of volunteers who are students in the English Language Institute (ELI) at the University of Pittsburgh.
Students come to the ELI from all over the world to study English. Recently, the ELI has begun to emphasize “community outreach” in addition to its usual extra-curricular activities. The goal of community outreach is for students to interact and participate with the native English speaking community in Pittsburgh.
Volunteering has allowed ELI students to practice English, learn about American culture and make friends. That is how the conversational buddies program was started at Kane Regional Center Glen Hazel. We have had students from Japan, Saudi Arabia and several students from Taiwan. The group meets every Wednesday from 1:00-2:15 with three residents and me.
We discuss various topics and customs. At the end of each semester we out together a journal and everyone receives a copy as a keepsake. This semester we have explored foods from Chinese culture and American cuisine, discussed holiday celebrations and current events. Having this opportunity for inter-generation and multi-culture experience has proven to be a very rewarding. Without hesitation, an international friendship has been born.
Margaret Plank is in her 25th year as a volunteer at John J. Kane Regional Centers, Scott Township.
Plank, who turned 95 last month, began volunteering at Kane when most people are easing into retirement. In fact, Plank began as a volunteer when Kane-Scott was still in its original building.
And she has made volunteering into a dedication. She braves any kind of weather in order to board a bus that brings her to the Scott facility where she brightens the lives of all the residents she meets.
“Kane is a part of my life,” Plank said. “I thank God I can still come.”
Plank chooses to spend her time with residents in a variety of ways. Sometimes, she simply visits with the residents, but she also does their laundry, helps them fill out their menus, and escorts them to church.
Plank is also the first in line to pitch in at resident activities, especially at parties where she helps slice and serve the pies and cakes.
Mary Sheppard is never at a loss for something to do.
Sheppard is a volunteer at John J. Kane Regional Centers, Ross Township, where she manages the facility’s fundraising snack shop. She shops for and stocks all of the store’s items in addition to handling all of the money and the accounting books. She also schedules the volunteers to work at the shop and fills in when someone calls off.
But her volunteering activity at Kane, which also includes visiting with residents, isn’t her only act of charity. She also volunteers at church, collects shampoos and necessities for the homeless, delivers sweat suits to the county jail, delivers meals on wheels, works for a local food bank and baby sits her grandchildren among many other activities.
“I do it to keep myself young,” Sheppard said. “I believe people should volunteer. I get upset with people when they tell me that they are bored and have nothing to do. I tell them to come along with me – I have something for them to do.”
Former mailman is delivering care at Kane.
In the rain, sleet, hail and snow, the mail must still go through. Retired from U.S. postal service after 35 years, Clarence Wilson has taken that same oath as a John J. Kane Regional Centers Glen Hazel volunteer. No matter what the weather conditions are, Clarence is at Glen Hazel volunteering.
Generally, he volunteers twice a week and whenever he is needed for special events. On Fridays, he is the BINGO caller at another facility. His assignments are many including escorting to Catholic Mass on Thursdays and escorting to Protestant service on Sundays.
The assignment that is closest to his heart is the Buddy System Program. He develops a one-on-one interaction with a certain resident while that resident resides at the center. He spends at least an hour with that individual at each visit. It is reminiscent of the era when you sat on your porch, front steps or the street corner conversing with your buddies. In good weather they go outside, otherwise they sit and chat in front of the fireplace. His present buddy is Johnnie, who prefers to stay in bed or in his room most of the time. But come Thursday, he is out front or in the lobby by 9:30am eagerly awaiting Clarence’s arrival at 11:00. Johnnie is partially blind. Clarence, with much encouragement and consistency, has gotten Johnnie to venture out of his room. Via ACCESS transportation they go shopping once a month.
Sandy Zosack, a lifelong resident of McKeesport, has been giving back to her community for two decades.
This year marks the 20th that Zosack has spent as a volunteer at John J. Kane Regional Centers, McKeesport. She faithfully visits residents at the facility three times a week.
Zosack will be recognized at the May 2 Kane volunteer dinner with a special pin that recognizes the 11,000 hours of service she has given to Kane. The Centers provide a pin to volunteers recognizing every 500 hours of service they perform.
“She carries a smile with her everywhere she goes,” said Sister T.J. Gaines, volunteer coordinator at the facility.
On Sundays, Zosack escorts residents to Mass in the facility’s chapel. On Mondays, she serves coffee and cookies to residents and enjoys partaking in the weekly sing-a-long with other volunteers. On Tuesdays, she may deliver birthday cards to residents and assist with escorting residents to Mass.
“I just like doing it,” Zosack said. “It gets me out of the apartment, and I like working with the residents and being with the other volunteers.”
McKeesport Regional Center volunteer, George Branick, was named Volunteer of the Year: not once, but twice! On October 6th Mr. Branick was named the 2005 Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Volunteer of Year and on December 1, Dennis Biondo, Executive Director of the Kane Regional Centers presented Mr. Branick with the 2005 Pennsylvania Association of County Affiliated Homes (PACAH) Volunteer of the Year.
Sister T.J. Gaines, Chaplain of McKeesport Regional Center works directly with Mr. Branick: "I nominated George for these awards as he has given to the volunteer department unselfishly. He is my right arm. I depend on him daily. He has improved the quality of life for our residents, just by being George."
Mr. Branick began volunteering at the McKeesport Regional Center in 1997. He's on-site daily from 9:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m. and on evenings and weekends, if needed.