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Extra hands keep St. Francis running smoothly

April 19, 2014
By MaryAnn Kromer - Staff Writer ( , The Advertiser-Tribune

Darlene Bloom started working at St. Francis Home 37 years ago.

Her first position was in the dietary department. Later, she became a state- tested nursing assistant and gave personal care to residents. In 1997, she worked part-time as the activities assistant and volunteer coordinator.

By 2002, the volunteer coordinator became a full-time position. Bloom's responsibilities have grown to include transportation supervisor, buyer for the gift shop and HIPAA privacy officer. Although Bloom is paid, she often puts in extra hours when needed.

Article Photos

Darlene Bloom checks the transportation schedule for the week at St. Francis Home.

Other employees contribute their time and funds, as well. For example, dietary worker Jane Distel makes cakes for special events at the home and creates gift baskets to be raffled around various holidays. Proceeds are used for residents' activities.

"That's her favorite pastime," Bloom said.

Recently, Bloom was filling in as transporter until a new person was available. She had more than 30 appointments scheduled to get residents to and from therapy or doctor's visits.

Bloom said regulations and policies have changed through the years for safety and other reasons. At one time, volunteers were allowed to help feed residents, but now, that is not permitted.

"They have to be a state-tested nursing assistant ... and they can't lift. For everything with personal care for the residents, they have to be state-tested. Volunteers are limited in what they can do, but there's still many, many opportunities they can do," Bloom said.

She estimated St. Francis Home has 85-90 volunteers ranging in age from 13 to 90-something. Some are high school and college students. Others are retirees who may spend winters elsewhere and help out while they are living in the area. Some volunteers, such as Sally Harvan and Mary Smith, are at the home nearly every afternoon to help with activities.

"Then I have certain volunteers (Ray Lee and Jerry Dunn) who just ... help the activities staff with the outings. Otherwise, we couldn't have those without them," Bloom said.

A residents' council at the home takes input from the residents to decide on trip destinations, mostly in the summer. They have visited fairs in neighboring counties, casinos, restaurants and other sites. Volunteers go along to help people get in and out of the bus and carry belongings.

When people commit to volunteering, Bloom answers their questions, provides a policy manual and gives them a tour of the facility. Before they get started, she matches them with staff members or seasoned volunteers to provide basic training in their assigned positions.

"I like to put volunteers in the area they want to be in. Certain ones only want to do office work, and I have a wonderful volunteer now. She is retired and just wants to do what she is used to doing," Bloom said.

One volunteer started out as a resident who was undergoing therapy after an injury. She recovered and returned home, but she continues to come in as a volunteer.

Sometimes, a person starts coming to St. Francis to visit a resident and ends up volunteering. Bloom said a recent addition was a Heidelberg student whose grandmother had spent time at St. Francis for therapy. The grandmother was able to go home, but the student needed to do some service hours. She decided to do them at St. Francis in appreciation for the help her grandmother received. Bloom said the woman plans to keep coming.

"She said, 'I only need eight hours, but I want to stay on. I think it would be fun.' I said, 'Of course, it's going to be fun.' We'll make it fun," Bloom said.

Bloom is president of the St. Francis Auxiliary. This group of volunteers pays annual dues of $5 per member, or lifetime dues of $50. The group helps raise money with special projects, such as a raffle this past week for an Easter dinner. The auxiliary also is to host the "Spring is in the Picture" card party May 7. A drawing for Cleveland Indians game tickets, donated by Arnold Vending, is to take place at that event. Fall is the season for an OSU/Michigan basket raffle.

Funds from these efforts are used for special purchases for the residents. At Christmas, volunteers pay for a special meal for residents and give each person a small gift. They have made donations for a physician's chair for doctors who come to the home to treat patients. Volunteer contributions also helped to obtain power doors for accessibility and the parallel bars for the physical therapy department.

A recent purchase was equipment for a "music memory" program. The auxiliary bought three new iPads and five speakers for iPods St. Francis had for residents to use. Bloom said she recently signed a new volunteer, a former music teacher, to get the music memory program started. ITunes cards from the auxiliary will enable her to download music of the residents' choice.

"This was just to name a few things. They do many more," Bloom said. "I can just count on them."

Anyone interested in joining the St. Francis Auxiliary can get more information from auxiliary members or call Bloom at by calling St. Francis Home at (419) 447-2723.



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