• EDITOR’S NOTE: United Way of Indiana County is in the midst of its 2013 fundraising campaign. This is one in a series highlighting one the partner agencies that receive funding each year.
Next year the Visiting Nurse Association of Indiana County embarks on its 44th year with a paid staff of 180, a volunteer corps of 75 and a $7 million budget, ranking the organization among the top employers in the county.
“This is a far cry from where it all started in a little room above the laundry at the Indiana Hospital,” said registered nurse June Stewart, coordinator of community development for the VNA. The staff at that time numbered two people.
VNA now occupies the entire third floor of the Medical Arts Building on the campus of Indiana Regional Medical Center.
With a professionally trained staff, mostly registered nurses and medical personnel, VNA provides home health, hospice and extended care, depending on the need.
“Many of the nurses have been here for years. They are experienced and have longevity,” noted Betsy DeGory, director of VNA Fund Development.
In the past few years, VNA has expanded its services with the merger of the CareNet volunteer program and the addition of Hopeful Hearts, a children’s bereavement program. This prompted Stewart to add: “We are the community health care organization. Every individual is our responsibility and we try to cover the entire spectrum, from driving someone to the doctor’s office to hospice care.
“This is where we live and this is who we serve.”
CareNet has 22 volunteers currently serving 24 patients with anything from transportation and companionship to small home repairs.
“These volunteers are truly amazing,” said DeGory. “They go through two to four hours of training, and there is also a background check.”
Although the volunteers are required to be available only one or two hours a week, there are cases when they take it on themselves to spend additional time.
“We had a case recently where an elderly couple had a refrigerator that quit working. The volunteer emptied it, went shopping with the couple, hooked up the new one and put the food back in,” said DeGory. “And it was all on his own time.”
The VNA nurses see the needs and then inform Lisa Davis, CareNet director, who assigns the volunteers.
“With the aging population (of Indiana County), there is more and more need for this type of help,” she said.
In addition to those receiving assistance from CareNet, there are 18 in the Hopeful Hearts program.
Stewart explained that for every patient under VNA care, there is a plan for that specific individual. And this brings in a team that works closely not only with IRMC, but also with Pittsburgh hospitals.
“And we are very proud of that,” Stewart said.
A not-for-profit organization, last year they served 2,400 patients with upwards of 67,000 patient/client visits.
The VNA is the top recipient of designated dollars, and United Way Director Susan Supko said the organization is “very professional in its presentation” for program funding.
Marion Nugent Cowan, formerly the VNA’s director of hospice and palliative care, was recently named as the new VNA director, taking over the post formerly occupied by Linda Bettinazzi, who retired after 12 years in that position.