Concordia’s 2024 Volunteer Award Winners

Concordia volunteers receiving awards

Concordia volunteers Walt Rutkowski, Kathy Shields and Sandy Yedicka were recently named the 2024 recipients of Concordia’s Horst & Eleanor Schwalm Faith in Caring Volunteer Award.

The award was created in 2017 to recognize those who generously donate their time and talents to Concordia’s mission. The Schwalms supported Concordia throughout their lives, with Horst serving as the organization’s administrator for many years and Eleanor serving as the first activities director – as well as becoming a resident and avid volunteer on the Concordia at Cabot campus.

The award is given to volunteers or volunteer groups who are mission-driven, inspire others and go above and beyond in their work. This year the winners are from the Concordia Haven Retirement Apartments and Concordia Hospice of Washington.

Walt Rutkowski, a Haven resident, volunteers at the Lund Care Center snack shop on the Concordia at Cabot campus, does landscaping around the campus, helps in the personal care unit and also completes many behind-the-scenes tasks in his own Haven retirement apartment building. He puts in about 70 volunteer hours per month in the winter months and up to 120 per month in the summer. He was also nominated for a LeadingAge PA Distinguished Service Award.

Walt volunteering in the snack shop

“I get much from volunteering: socialization, accountability, purpose, structure and a creative outlet,” Walt said. “It’s humbling to receive this award, particularly because I see all the good work that other volunteers do here.”

Kathy Shields, another Haven resident, primarily creates beautiful floral arrangements and interior designs for the Haven retirement living apartment chapels and common areas, which she switches out according to each season and major holiday. She is a member of a Haven women’s group that welcomes new residents, organizes bake sales and more; volunteers for Concordia’s fundraisers; helps with resident events; and also purchased and screened new movie releases so that her fellow residents wouldn’t need to leave their building to enjoy the show.

Kathy putting the final touches on a chapel decoration

“Interior design is what I love to do, so it isn’t a job for me,” Kathy said. “I live here, and this is the only home I’ll have for the rest of my life. This keeps me busy and active, and I truly want this place to be beautiful for myself and the other residents. We should be proud of where we live.”

Sandy Yedicka of McMurray, Pa., volunteers with Concordia Hospice of Washington (CHOW) in the Donnell House inpatient unit by visiting with patients, supporting staff and helping with administrative tasks. She gets to know each patient in the unit, and always visits with their favorite snacks in hand. Staff there refer to her at their unofficial “grandma” based on her uplifting spirituality and kindness.

Sandy holding her award with other CHOW volunteers and staff

“My biggest takeaway from volunteering is all the friends I’ve made here; we’ve become family,” Sandy said. “I never volunteered to get an award, I just do it because I do it. It’s just love here. Love for the patients, love for the staff and love for the Donnell House.”

Walt received $5,000 for use in his volunteer program, and Kathy and Sandy both received $2,500. All three were honored at the Concordia Lutheran Ministries Volunteer Luncheon on April 16, and Sandy and the rest of the CHOW volunteers were recognized at a special brunch celebration on April 17.

Founded in 1881, Concordia Lutheran Ministries is a faith-based, CARF-accredited Aging Services Network and recipient of the inaugural Pennsylvania Department of Aging Excellence in Quality Care Award. As one of the largest nonprofit senior care providers in the country, the organization serves 50,000 people annually through in-home care and inpatient locations.

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