February 2012 Volunteer of the Month
Perhaps it is Kelly Slipakoff’s humbleness that makes her shine so brightly. When you ask her what her favorite part of The ALS Association is, she will tell you that everybody, from the patients to the staff to the volunteers, inspire her every day. The truth is, she is the very often the one who inspires them.
When Kelly became involved with the ALS Association 11 years ago, she had no personal experience with ALS. She was simply looking for volunteer work when her husband Al, who sits on our Board, suggested she speak toEllyn Phillips“…and that was all it took!” she recalls.
“At that time, the Visiting Volunteer program was just in its organizational stage, and I was very interested in doing something like that. While waiting for that Program to begin in April of 2001, I found myself helping out with various functions and getting to know the wonderful staff.
I have been a visiting volunteer to eight PALS-seven of whom have lost their battles to ALS. My role was quite different with each one of them, ranging from visiting once or twice a week to phone calls and corresponding with family members.”
Staff nurse Gail Houseman, who coordinates our Visiting Volunteer program, elaborates, “Kelly has become a part of each family she visits. She is a friend, a listener, and an advocate not only for the patient, but also for their caregiver and family members.”
Gail remembers how when two PALS at one nursing home had issues with staff and policies there, Kelly was a true advocate. She met with the nursing home staff and various times and spoke up for her PALS. For another person with ALS who could no longer read, Kelly spent her time reading to her and being a true companion.
As Ellyn Phillips warmly recalled, “PALS have written to us about how kind Kelly is and how they look forward to her visits.”
We often call someone dependable for being on time. Kelly is more than dependable. She goes above and beyond and never asks for anything in return.
In addition to her work as a Visiting Volunteer, Kelly has volunteered at the support groups, the Holiday Party, Longwood Gardens trip, and the Phillies Phestival. She also serves on the committee for the Greater Philadelphia Walk to Defeat ALS® and captains the Green Team, in memory of Helene Green, whom she visited for over a year and was the first PALS she visited. Her dedication to her walk team is a constant reminder that no person with ALS is ever forgotten. Each story leaves an impression on Kelly just as much as Kelly leaves an impression on everybody else.
Kelly also helps at the ALS Clinic at Pennsylvania Hospital, filling in as the greeter when the regular volunteer is not available, getting the patient’s weight, finding them a room, and getting them a beverage. When a patient can feel frightened or nervous, Kelly makes them feel at home.
“Kelly is always willing to help out, making herself available to do things no one else can,” says Brenda Edelman, Director of Patient Services. “There simply are not many people like her.”
Both Kelly and husband Al are dedicated to volunteer work. “We enjoy doing much of the volunteer work together,” Kelly says. It’s a winning combination for the couple, who have been married for 39 years this December, and have two children—daughter Stacey and Jamie with their daughter Hope, who lives in San Matteo, CA and son B.J. and his wife Lori, who live in Broomall and have a son Nathaniel and daughter Dana. Kelly also keeps up her career as an Ophthalmic Photographer for a retina specialist at Bryn Mawr Hospital, her profession for over 40 years, which she says she wouldn’t trade for the world.
“Before I joined this organization, I had no personal experience with ALS,” Kelly says of her experience as a volunteer. “Now I can say that have truly lost some dear friends, and gained so many more, including my fellow volunteers and their families—many of whom are presently living with ALS.”
Kelly’s favorite activity is the Annual ALS Patient and Family Holiday Party. She loves how patients and families can go and forget that ALS even exists for a day. For years, she was looking forward to when she could bring grandchildren to the event, and this past year when she brought her grandchildren, they had a blast.
As Kelly said when she found out she was our Volunteer of the Month, “It’s so important to have volunteers, for as much as the staff does, they do need some help!” The ALS Association always needs volunteers, and we are truly lucky to have Kelly Slipakoff joining us every step of the way.
Thank you Kelly for all that you do.