VNA of Northwest Indiana Looks to the Future and Honors the Past at Annual Meeting

VNA of Northwest Indiana Looks to the Future and Honors the Past at Annual Meeting
By: Curtis Hankins Last Updated: February 8, 2019

The VNA of Northwest Indiana’s Annual Meeting is always a special night, as their team gets the chance to unite with the community and recognize the achievements of the previous year. This year’s meeting also offered something a little different.

In addition to honoring the past, the VNA looked into the future by welcoming their newly instated CEO Bob Franko, who reintroduced the organization to the community at large. One of the most unique aspects of the Annual Meeting is that community members are welcome to attend. Franko looked at this as a chance to address and learn from the people in attendance. 

“What we want to do is establish trust in VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana,” he said. “We’ve transitioned and shifted focus over the last few years, which I think has caused a little confusion about who we are and what we do now. We want the community to know that this is their VNA, not mine or the board's; it’s the community’s.”

To most people, the faces of VNA are the social workers, nurses, aides, volunteers, and other team members that help in some of life’s most difficult moments. In just one month as CEO, Franko was stunned by his staff’s commitment to the VNA’s mission.

“The people that do this work are some of the most special people on the face of the Earth,” he said. “They choose to do this work, they’re called to it. It’s humbling and a privilege to be around them.”

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The nature of their work means many of the staff and volunteers rarely get the chance to meet and decompress. Maria Galka, director of development, was glad to offer them that chance, saying that the event always demonstrates the heart of the VNA.

“I think when you bring all the people that really care about the VNA together, it helps them not only celebrate but lets them truly live the mission,” she said.

For VNA Chairman of the Board Cindy Kaariainen-Tougaw, the biggest moment of the night was her chance to honor a role model and dedicated supporter that helped shape the VNA into what it is today.

“I’m so excited to present an award to one of our board members, Doug Watkins,” Kaariainen-Tougaw said. “He’s served 25 years on the board and is retiring this term. 25 years is such an accomplishment. He’s a big part of why we’re stronger than ever.”

In addition to celebrating staff and volunteers, the VNA honored Dr. George Sloan as the VNA’s Physician of the Year. Said one of VNA’s nurses in her nomination of Dr. Sloan, “Dr. Sloan’s approach to patients and their families is extraordinarily compassionate. He listens carefully, answers tough questions honestly, and spends the extra time every person needs in order to gain some understanding of what they can expect.”

The event closed with the awarding of four future nurses with Tricia’s Scholarship, a memorial scholarship named in honor late VNA nurse Tricia Marie Simpson Russell. The recipients were Tammy Hartman, Madeline Ginther, Michael DeHaven, and Valentina Escobar.

To learn more about the VNA of Northwest Indiana, visit