Maria Galka reflects on her 20th anniversary at VNA of Northwest Indiana

Maria Galka reflects on her 20th anniversary at VNA of Northwest Indiana

Though she was born in Valparaiso, you would have been hard pressed to find Maria Galka during her childhood days as she was an army brat who moved all over the country. Thankfully for those of us here in Northwest Indiana, Galka moved back to where she was born and has been serving her community and making the world around her a bit brighter ever since.

For 20 years now, Galka has worked at VNA of Northwest Indiana. To celebrate her anniversary with the nonprofit this year, she spent some time reflecting on the memories and growth of the past two decades.

Her personal story with VNA of NWI began back when a temp agency introduced her to the organization.

“I got the job as a Development Assistant with the VNA through a temp agency,” said Galka. “I was volunteering at an event with the Hobart City Improvement Committee and mentioned to a co-volunteer at the event that I was going to start my new job the next week. I had no idea she worked there and had no idea what the VNA was even all about, and here I am more than 20 years later.”

At the time, her work as Development Assistant involved responsibilities like tracking donations, putting together appeals, and producing newsletters. She left the position after some time, but the mission and passion of VNA of NWI had her coming right back.

“I left the VNA for about eight months to work as the Development Director for the Drifting Dunes Girl Scout Council, but then returned to the VNA when the position as Director of Development there became available in 2001,” said Galka. “The Girls Scouts was a wonderful organization, but the VNA had my heart from the beginning and I jumped at the chance to return.”

Since February 2001, Galka has proudly and passionately served as the Director of Development. In her position, she has the special opportunity of reaching out to community members to spread the word about VNA of NWI’s uplifting mission. 

“I’m able to help the community better understand the VNA’s mission, help build awareness about the programs we offer to help people during difficult times in their lives, and also encourage financial support to allow the VNA to continue to make a difference in the lives of so many in our community, regardless of their financial situation,” said Galka.

As the leading advocate for aging community members, VNA of NWI provides hospice, palliative, and other forms of senior care to the most vulnerable individuals in our area. Galka feels that VNA’s core values – unwavering integrity, tireless advocacy, enduring compassion, proven excellence, selfless humility, and genuine respect – have been central to her work of carrying out this mission for the past 20 years.

“What inspires me? That’s easy – the mission. I always felt it in my heart, but our CEO Bob Franko was able to put it into words with our newest mission statement: ‘Making Best Days Possible,’” said Galka. “That’s what has always been at the heart of the VNA.”

As a nonprofit organization, VNA of NWI carries out what Galka feels is one of the most crucial services that any group can do as they spend every day doing what is best for patients, clients, and their families, ultimately doing what is best for the entire community. Galka notes how this mission and effective support of the community would not be possible without their entire team of hard-working, dedicated staff members.

“Whether it’s helping solve a life problem by connecting them with the resources they need, or looking for a way to brighten their day, our nurses, aides, chaplains, social workers, volunteers, and administrative staff always have the people we serve in mind, well above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of their position,” said Galka. “We are blessed with talented, professional, and truly compassionate staff, as well as a caring community who believes in what we do and makes it possible either through their financial support or as volunteers – often both.”

Creating better days, problem-solving as it arises, and providing exceptional senior care have all been constants since Galka first began 20 years ago. However, one aspect of her position that Galka discussed she has seen change since 2001 would undoubtedly be technology. There have been countless examples of improvements in technology since she began, and so much of her work as Director of Development has been positively altered because of these exact advancements.

“Technology really has changed since I first started with the VNA. We now have a dynamic website, social media, smart phones, and can even take donations by credit card – all things that didn’t exist when I first started,” said Galka. “We were even able to do a couple of our events virtually during the pandemic, something that would have been impossible to do 20 years ago.”

Events truly are a staple at VNA of NWI. Being able to bring supporters and interested community members together is the perfect way to not only fundraise for the organization, but also place an emphasis on education and advocacy for what the nonprofit is all about.

VNA Groovy Stroll for Hospice 2021

The VNA Stroll of Hospice has been running for 20 years now and only continues to grow with over 500 people registered and volunteering last week,” said Galka. “We added a Tree of Remembrance Ceremony in 2005 to raise funds, but more to help support people who had lost a loved one and were looking for a way to remember them during the holiday season.”

As they add more events to their annual calendar, VNA of NWI only sees attendance and support, both in the volunteer and financial sphere, growing more and more. The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has surely put a damper on their exciting, year-round events, but their team has been able to successfully and safely navigate each challenge and make do with what they have.

Lori's Ride 2014

“We also hosted Lori’s Ride, a 25 to 100-mile bike ride through Northwest Indiana, for about seven years but then replaced the ride with the gala in 2017,” said Galka. “This year, we’ve added Hops for Hospice, a brew fest in support of VNA’s hospice program.”

Galka is appreciative to be in a position, in an organization, and in a community that is filled with so much excitement and compassion. She may be celebrating her 20th anniversary with VNA this year, but the VNA itself also celebrated their 50th year of incredible service and impact in 2020.

“I’m proud that the VNA has been around for 50 years and is working strategically to ensure the next 50 years are just as great,” said Galka.

Here’s to another 20 years of dedicated, thoughtful, and positive leadership like Galka’s as VNA of NWI continues to bring their exceptional care and service to those who need them most throughout Lake, La Porte, Jasper, Porter, and Starke counties.

To learn more about VNA of Northwest Indiana, visit their website at www.vnanwi.org.