A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Julie Kissinger

A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Julie Kissinger

Julie Kissinger grew up in Valpo and graduated from high school in her hometown. She then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business from Purdue University. She currently works as the director of life services at VNA Hospice NWI, at the head of the organization’s Meals on Wheels department. Her duties consist of providing services to homebound seniors and assisting them with the maintenance of their independence and nutritional well-being.

Kissinger’s been at VNA for the past five years. Before she began there, she and her husband were a couple that fostered. Their youngest child, in fact, is adopted. Together they were looking to put a pause on that part of their lives, however. When the opportunity at VNA arose, Kissinger was quite interested, so she went through with reaching out about the opportunity. Of course, she still serves people in the Region to this day. It turned out to be the perfect fit for her, time-management-wise especially.

A typical day at work for Kissinger is jam-packed with responsibilities and tasks galore. She’s always finding herself immersed in matters of interest. Each day, she collaborates with numerous volunteers to send out about 230 hot lunches to both the elderly and otherwise disabled individuals residing in Porter County.

She also works within the Phoenix Center, which is another branch of VNA that offers support to children, teens, young adults, and families as they grieve their deceased loved ones.

The clients and volunteers with whom she interacts on a daily basis constantly continue to inspire and motivate Kissinger. They keep her incredibly invested in doing meaningful work for a wide range of community members in need of assistance and guidance. Moreover, both aforementioned groups, whether she knows it or not, point out to her the more important things in this life, bringing about in her the realization that there’s forever something to learn, even if some lessons come from unexpected places. She regularly gets to experience selfless help in action, and through her dispatch of volunteers, memories for folks who are rather lonely are created.

“I'm inspired by all the volunteers I work with, and I love getting to know our clients and their stories. The majority of our clients live alone, and usually, the volunteer bringing them their meal is the only person they'll see all day. You can tell a conversation means so much to them, and they remind me to truly appreciate what matters in life. As for our volunteers, they give their talents and their treasures for nothing in return. My ultimate goal is to do the same when I become older,” she said.

While Kissinger comes across many moments of inspiration, there is a bit of hardship involved that she has to face head-on. It’s not unusual that she’ll have to attend to clients whose needs are more demanding than those of others. It certainly is a frequent challenge she’s required to navigate, but there are rewards in practically everything she does. For her it’s not the struggles that overwhelm, but the simultaneous sincerity and generosity she experiences. Some of the best memories of her job have emerged from those more painful experiences and interactions.

“There are times when we meet a client that has many more needs than just a meal. It can get difficult to try to connect them to other resources in the community,” she said. “We had a woman named Dolores who was our client in the midst of COVID, and she was socially isolated for some time, which upset her. I remember asking, ‘Could I give you a hug?’ That hug broke her down to tears, and I'll never forget being blown away by how much something so simple can do.”

Even though her line of work requires a heavy emotional toll, Kissinger discovered ways of giving herself necessary breaks from the successes and difficulties. Her family plays a crucial part in offering her a haven of sorts from any tribulations.

“It’s taken me a couple of years to learn the best ways to manage a good work-life balance. I’ve had to set clear boundaries, and it’s paid off. When I go home at the end of the workday, I just want to love my family, so I’ll refrain from checking my work email because I want to be truly present for them,” she said.

In her free time, Kissinger enjoys going to church with her family. She and her husband dedicate much of their efforts to the Indiana Dunes Great Banquet, a local ecumenical group based in Northwest Indiana that focuses on sharing stories by people who seek to give grace to one another.

Kissinger acknowledges that without her husband Justin, none of the endeavors she has pursued would be possible. Her biggest accomplishment in life is finding true love in her husband and she is grateful they work as a team together in all things.  

Kissinger hasn’t ever taken for granted the promising prospects of Valparaiso. She’s been here for almost the whole of her life, and she continually realizes that the area has so much to offer her and those around her.

“For the past two years, my husband and I have been renovating a 110-year-old house in Valpo that we just moved into at the beginning of this year. I absolutely love walking through downtown Valpo and Central Park, seeing the ice-skating in the wintertime, and eating at the great restaurants at any time during the year. It’s so nice and neat to live in a town that has so many activities going on,” she said.