Volunteering feeds the soul for 'Healthcare Hero' - LancasterOnline: News

Volunteering feeds the soul for 'Healthcare Hero'

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Posted: Saturday, January 23, 2010 9:14 am | Updated: 8:55 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

Paul C. Winters leans in close to Kathryn Horning with a spoonful of mashed potatoes.

Winters, 85, opens his mouth as if to say, "See? This is how it goes."

Horning, 85, opens her mouth, eating a dainty bite.

This is how the lunch hour goes for these two at Fairmount Homes, bite after bite after bite.

Every day for the past three years, Winters has come to Fairmount, which is east of Brownstown, to feed Horning, who has Alzheimer's disease.

The two are from different backgrounds and have never had a conversation because of Horning's memory loss. But at lunchtime, Winters sits by Horning's side, talking to her and trying to coax a smile from her.

Winters recently was named a Healthcare Hero by Central Penn Parent magazine as one of its Volunteers of the Year. He was one of a dozen local people in the health care field who were recognized by the awards program.

Winters first learned of Fairmount when his late wife, Louise, was a patient in its memory support unit.

After she died three years ago, Winters returned to the home and asked to volunteer in the unit.

"I saw a need to help," he said simply, "and I did."

He sat down at lunchtime one day and started feeding Horning, and the two have stuck together ever since.

They make an interesting pair.

Winters moved to Lancaster County from Chester County after retiring from his job as a sales manager in the steel business. He is a D-Day veteran, lover of music and theater, and a Roman Catholic who grew up in Philadelphia.

Horning, a widow, is a mother of four, a grandmother and a former homemaker who was a kitchen worker after her first husband died. She enjoyed gardening and baking and is a Mennonite.

Winters, a cheerful, friendly man, loves coming to Fairmount, where a worker sings "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" as she wheels a resident down a hallway.

He's on a first-name basis with the residents, staff and administrators of the home, which is governed by a nine-member board from the Weaverland Conference of the Old Order Mennonite church.

"There is something special here," he said. "I'm not Mennonite, but let's just say there is something that I feel, that I fit into this atmosphere."

It's apparent as he stops, accompanied by a female visitor, and greets residents gathered in a sitting area. Their eyes light up.

One woman waves her hand at him and says, "Oh. Now you've got a girlfriend," as everyone laughs.

In the memory loss unit, he chats back and forth with staff members, who are teaching him how to speak Pennsylvania Dutch.

He speaks it to Horning as they make their way through a pureed lunch. He pauses to carefully hold a cup to her lips for sips of juice.

Horning's daughter, Janet Lichty, 56, of New Holland, said Winters' devotion means a lot to her family. Lichty occasionally comes at lunchtime, but she works part time and is grateful that Winters can be with her mother.

"We're very thankful that he comes in and takes the time to be with her when none of us can be there," Lichty said.

Winters said, "I get more out of this place than I give. I get to laugh every day. I get to work with people of all ages. It's an enjoyment.

"Some people play golf. This happens to be my thing."

After lunch, he helps the staff clear the dishes, says his goodbyes, and he's back to Garden Spot Village, where he lives and volunteers in other programs, such as the men's breakfast. He also walks a lot, bicycles in good weather, likes to attend local theater productions and is active in church activities.

"I've had a wonderful life," he said.

•••

Winters was one of many local residents chosen as Healthcare Heroes.

In the Physician of the Year category, honorees include Dr. Pia Boben Fenimore, Dr. Mark H. Johnston, Dr. Randy Kochel and Dr. Ronald Krak.

Gloriajean Schaible also was chosen as a Volunteer of the Year. Kimona L. Keenen was chosen as a Children's Health Advocate.

Chosen as Special Needs Advocates were Paulette K. Divet, Janiece Seldomridge, Lori Shoemaker and Kaitie's Krusade.

Melanie Raffucci received the Future of Healthcare Award.

The honorees, who were nominated by co-workers or colleagues, were chosen by a panel of judges from regional health care organizations. They will be recognized at a banquet in March.

cstauffer@lnpnews.com

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