By SARA ARTHURS
Linda Schwepe, volunteer at The Heritage in Findlay, has been named 2017 Volunteer of the Year by the Ohio Health Care Association, the state’s largest organization representing long-term care facilities.
Schwepe’s involvement began three years ago when her husband, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was a resident at the Heritage’s Legacy memory unit. He was only there for two weeks before his death, but Schwepe began getting to know the staff. One employee asked if Schwepe was interested in helping with bingo, and she agreed — then started helping with other activities, one after another.
She’s now there at least 20 hours a week, said executive director Jessica Trinko. She’s helped with games, crafts, serving food and taking care of courtyard landscaping.
“Wherever Linda is, there is also joy,” Trinko wrote in a press release. “Her positive attitude is contagious, and she’s touched the lives of so many during her time here.”
As someone who is older, and has herself experienced being a caregiver for someone with dementia, Schwepe said she finds it easier to interact with people with dementia. After all, Trinko said, she knows their experience: “You’ve seen dementia firsthand.”
Schwepe’s goal is always “to make them smile or laugh.” That goes for staff as well as residents. And, yes, she usually succeeds.
Schwepe hadn’t been a volunteer long when an aide encouraged her to go talk to a man who had just been admitted. The aide said she would sit with him while he ate, but then she had to leave. Schwepe looked at the man and he was crying. She asked him, if he could do one thing after supper, what would it be? Sing church hymns, he told her.
“I said, ‘I know “Jesus Loves Me,'” Schwepe said.
So they sang — the man softly at first, then louder, then the rest of the table joining in. They’d sing it again when she came back to work with him.
“The Legacy is a different place when Linda’s here,” said Alexis Patti, Legacy neighborhood director, who along with Trinko nominated her for the award.
And when Schwepe isn’t there, people will be looking for her. “Her walking in the door is enough to just brighten up the entire place,” Patti said.
Schwepe received her award at the association’s annual convention in Columbus earlier this year.
The Adult Volunteer of the Year is presented to individuals showing unsurpassed dedication to the facility and its residents. Candidates are nominated by the facility, and winners are chosen by a panel of long-term care experts appointed by the association.
Schwepe said she’s grateful for the honor, but she does the volunteer work not to be honored. “I love doing this,” she said.
What’s kept her volunteering? “The people,” Schwepe said. “Everybody. The staff. The residents.”
Schwepe also volunteers for the Northwestern Ohio Synod for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She is retired from working at Theatrical Accessories, a costuming company where she made crowns, and then at Bo-Ka Flowers.
As for hobbies, she has a “basement full” of craft materials, especially for making cards. She also enjoys clog dancing.
An OHCA press release states that Schwepe, 76, has been described as a “ball of energy.”
Trinko said Schwepe brings “that spark, that energy, that joy, that passion” which influences everyone on staff.
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