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Volunteer Coordinator Helps Veterans Feel Cared For By the Community

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Heartland Hospice serving North Central Illinois and Southern Wisconsin's Volunteer Coordinator, Janine Idstein, made focusing on the We Honor Veterans program a priority close to five years ago. Before she arrived, the program was not being used to its full potential. "When I started at Heartland, everybody knew that we were partners in the We Honor Veteran program, but there really wasn't one person who was running it," said Janine.

Since Janine joined the Heartland Hospice team, Heartland has hosted close to 40 veteran events and even admitted 25 veterans onto their service just last month. Pam Weiss, Heartland Hospice Administrator, said, "I've never had an employee that has really stayed with it. I'm so proud of the work that she has done." Janine shares in the feeling of pride, but said that it comes from seeing the changes in her team members in buying into the program. "When I started with Heartland, no one really knew which patients were veterans. It just wasn't on their radar. As we have worked our way up through the levels in the program, the team has had a lot of educational opportunities. They're asking a lot of questions and they're very excited about it," said Janine.

The most recent event was a celebration of Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. As the name suggests, it brought together veterans in the area who served during the Vietnam War. It left a lasting impact on many of the people who attended, including Vietnam Veteran, Alan Wight. "I really appreciate Janine and what she did. She goes above and beyond what she could have done. She is very well versed in what the veteran's troubles have been and she wants to do her part to raise awareness" said Alan.

This role is something that Janine cherishes, especially because of the recognition received from veterans and their families. "They remember the things that we did and they tell us what it meant to them and that's really the most gratifying part," said Janine.

Heartland Hospice serving North Central Illinois and Southern Wisconsin is a Level Four We Honor Veterans partner which is the highest level an agency can achieve. In order to reach Level Four, Heartland was tasked with learning more about caring for veterans, declaring a commitment to honoring veterans at the end of life, providing education for hospice staff and volunteers on caring for veterans and partnering with the VA at the local, regional and national level to ensure the unique needs of veterans are met. 

To learn more about the We Honor Veterans initiative, the steps that our agencies have taken to receive this acknowledgement or to see where other Heartland agencies are at in the process of achieving this honor, visit the We Honor Veterans website.

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