Archive for the 'Volunteers' Category

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Lillian Stier

mom, dad and twin boys

Lillian Stier with husband, Eric, and twins Zachary and Jackson

Winston Churchill said, “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” So when Lillian Stier became a stay-at-home mom, you can say that she was no longer making a living, but she was most definitely making a life. She is also making the lives of those around her much better by her efforts as a mom and as a Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer.

Lillian is a registered nurse who is currently staying home full time to raise her twin boys, Zachary and Jackson, age 3. She and her family live in Troy, Michigan, where Lillian volunteers as a Parenting Partner in the Beaumont NICU. As a Parenting Partner, she teaches parenting skills to new parents, such as bathing and swaddling, thereby providing help to both the new parents and the nursing staff. Lillian is uniquely qualified for this position because of her experience as a nurse, but also due to her experience as a NICU parent with her boys.

She became a volunteer for the BPP “to be able to offer support to other new parents. Adjusting to parenthood can be very overwhelming and being able to talk to someone who understands can be helpful. [She] remembers being a parent in the NICU when Zachary and Jackson were born and [she was] so grateful for all the support and care that [she] received. [She] wanted to be able to give back in any way that [she] could, even if it was just making a difference to one parent.” Lillian has made a difference to more than one parent, and plans to reach even more new families by becoming a group leader for the BPP. The role of a group leader is to organize a group of new parents and facilitate meetings for them and their babies where expert speakers give helpful information, parents offer invaluable support to one another, and children make their first friends.

In addition to being a mom and a BPP volunteer, Lillian also volunteers for Kensington Community Church. In her spare time (which I’m sure there can’t be much of with all of the hats she is wearing), Lillian enjoys knitting, tennis, swimming with her family, and drinking coffee (which is no doubt a necessity to accomplish everything else she enjoys). Lillian thinks many would be surprised to know that she is fluent in Cantonese, which she is teaching her children, and that she was born in Hong Kong. Her favorite book is “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, and her kids’ favorite things about her are her hugs and kisses.

Lillian found, as so many BPP volunteers have, that she gets back as much as she gives to the program, and told me that she’s grateful for the connection to one parent she was helping who turned around and helped her through a difficult time. She would like to tell new parents, “You are doing the best that you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because being a new parent is hard! Also, make sure you take time for yourself. I can better take care of my kids when I take care of myself; it makes me a better mom. “

After all, making a life is hard work. And everyone in the BPP family thanks Lillian for her efforts at making hers, and theirs, a better one.

– Nicole Capozello is a Parenting Program volunteer.

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Christie Neely

Selfie of Christie Neely

Boonaa Mohammed said, “A good way to forget your troubles is to help others out of theirs.”. So I thought the Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer I would like you to meet next is Christie Neely.

When Christie’s adult children moved out, they left “a large empty gap” in her life. While dealing with the difficult adjustment of an empty nest, she decided, along with her friend and coworker, to “do something . . . that would allow [them] to make a difference in the lives of people.” Rather than dwelling on the ever-changing emotions involved in her situation, Christie chose to become a volunteer for the BPP, where she has served as a group leader, a hearing screener, and a parenting partner. She recently became a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, which will give her even more tools to be able to help the families of the BPP.

Christie has been a BPP volunteer for almost four years. She is married to her husband, Mike, with whom she has two children: Corissa (27) and Nick (24). In addition to her volunteer service, she works as a sales coordinator at Intraco Corp.. In her spare time, this Rochester Hills resident likes to do anything outdoors, including camping, kayaking and hiking. Something many may not know about Christie is that she is a member of the Detroit Fly House aerial acrobatic family. She finds the other members of the Detroit Fly House supportive and encouraging — which is how the BPP families who  benefited from Christie’s time and efforts would describe her!

I asked Christie if she had any bits of favorite advice to share with new families. She said that she would tell them to “relax and enjoy it. So much pressure is put on parents to be perfect in the eyes of others. Families need to accept that what is good for them may not be good for others and it is OK.” When asked what her favorite part about being a BPP volunteer was, she replied, “Helping the new families navigate the crazy world of being new parents.”

In closing, I would like to share Christie’s favorite quote from Dodinsky: “I do not judge people by the scriptures of their faith, or the scars from their past, I embrace them by the content of their hearts.” As we judge Christie on the content of her heart, we find that the BPP is fortunate to have her as a dedicated volunteer, and the families that she helps are very blessed indeed to have this empty nester help them with the feathering of their own new roosts.

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program volunteer

Volunteers: Lessons I’ve learned

Cake with "Thank you volunteers" written on it

Altered image. San Jose Library, Flickr. CC license.

As I reflect back on more than 20 years of working alongside volunteers, without a doubt, some of my most notable lessons in life come from those who give so freely of their time and efforts. In celebration of National Volunteer Week, I thought it would be most appropriate to highlight some of the valuable lessons I’ve gathered along the way.

  • There are many volunteers who have amazing stories to share. Yet their best virtue is their gift for listening to others.
  • I am often humbled by those who have suffered and experienced great loss. It is their ability to stand with such strength and give with such heart that leaves me in awe.
  • When it comes to volunteering, age isn’t a factor. It’s more about the heart.
  • Volunteerism is the opportunity to be a part of something that bring all walks of life together with common goals and meaningful purpose in mind.
  • There are indeed angels in this world. We are often touched by them — just ask any Parenting Program staff member and they will confirm that this is true.
  • Amidst stressful days and questionable times, I’ve been lifted and held by volunteers. I continue to be amazed by the magnitude of heart and compassion that volunteers can exude.
  • From my student volunteers, I learned to dream big and to keep marching towards your goals. Persevere and you will succeed.
  • Superheroes do exist! They may not wear capes, but I see them out in our community and at the hospital regularly.
  • Be open to change. It cultivates innovation and creativity. Implementing our Parent Talk Blog and Facebook page are just a couple of examples of how our volunteers encouraged me to push the envelope and think outside the box.
  • It has been demonstrated to me over and over again that one person can indeed make a difference. At the top of my list is the story of a single mother who literally changed the course of this program. Thousands of families benefitted from her generous donations.
  • I am compelled to give more and do better each and every day, because I am surrounded by those who give more and do better each and every day.
  • The best way to get something done: ask a volunteer. When we work together, we can achieve so much more.

From my heart to yours … thank you for your continued dedication and abundant contributions!

Happy National Volunteer Week!

– Deanna Robb, Parenting Program Director

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Wendy MacKenzie

Parents with their four children

Wendy and Greg with their children, Caitlin, James, Maggie and Charlie

We’ve all heard clichés about the far-reaching effects of small things: Drop a pebble in the middle of a pond and watch the ripples reach out to the shore. When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it can cause a storm across the globe.

But there is no doubt that this “butterfly effect” is very real, and can be seen every day in the Beaumont Parenting Program. A seemingly small decision in one family ends up touching countless lives. Such is the case with BPP volunteer Wendy MacKenzie.

Almost 11 years ago, Wendy was offered the opportunity to be part of a parenting group through the BPP when her first child was born. She decided to join, and that experience “was so invaluable to [her] that [she] knew [she] wanted to assist in creating that sense of community for other first-time parents.” So Wendy became a BPP volunteer.

Throughout her 10 years of volunteering with the program, she held the roles of Group Leader, Tour Guide, Parenting Partner, and currently, Office Volunteer. And in that time, Wendy’s efforts to create that sense of community she felt with her daughter’s group created the butterfly effect of a warm touch to innumerable families. As the ripples in the pond hit the shore and rebound back to the pebble, so does the feeling of community Wendy spreads comes back to her. She told me a story of a family she had guided on a hospital tour stopping her at Target and thanking her for her assistance. She said that contact “gave her a high for the rest of the day.” I am absolutely certain that Wendy spread that high to every person she came into contact with that day, with a kind word or an engaging smile – thereby strengthening that sense of community even more.

Wendy is the mother of four children: Caitlin (10), James (8), Charles (3) and Margaret (1). She lives in Beverly Hills with her husband, Greg, and their kids. Wendy enjoys scrapbooking, photography and reading. Her favorite book is “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger and her favorite children’s book is “The Girl with the Silver Eyes” by Willo Davis Roberts. She describes herself as a “crazed” fantasy football fan with an impressive winning record. She also enjoys game night with her kids, especially “Exploding Kittens” (which I really have to go find because with a name like that, it has to be fun!).

Mom and daughter closeup

Wendy with Caitlin

I like to ask volunteers to find out what their kids’ favorite thing about them as a parent is. Out of the mouths of babes, Wendy’s kids answered: “I like when you talk to me,” (Charlie, 3). “You have nice, dark brown hair,” (James, 8) and “You are almost always there for us. I mean, sometimes you’re not home.” (Caitlin, 10). Well, Caitlin, it’s clear that when your Mom’s not home, she’s being there for the BPP and its families. So thanks for sharing your Mom’s butterfly wings!

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program Volunteer

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Maleita Walsh

Maleita Walsh with her family

Parenting small children takes a great deal of love, patience and energy. Parenting adult children takes no less love or patience, but it does require less day-to-day energy. As we know from the first law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be transformed. So what does a mother do with her excess energy when she goes from parenting small children to parenting adult (and nearly adult) children? Meet the answer in Parenting Program volunteer Maleita Walsh.

Maleita Walsh is a 44-year-old mother of three. She and her husband, Matt, recently moved from Rochester Hills to Oakland Township. They have three children: Mitch (20), Maddie (18), and Lanie (15). Mitch and Maddie are both students at the University of Michigan. Lanie still lives at home, attending high school and being very involved in dance. The Walsh family loves to travel, and have taken trips together to Italy, Costa Rica, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany. Maleita also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and reading. Some of her favorite kids’ books are by Kevin Henkes and Patricia Polacco, as well as All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan.

When Maleita’s children were small, she left her career in Marriage and Family Psychology to become a full-time parent. She poured her time and energy into her children and their activities. As a regular feature at their schools and sporting events, she volunteered her time in both arenas. Maleita continued to spend the energy of her passion for parenting and family on her children and their activities as they grew from small ones to tall ones. Maleita’s daughter, Maddie, says that her favorite thing about her mom as a parent is “(her) attentiveness and ability to know exactly what (her children) need at the right time. (She) is really good at knowing when (they) need a hug or some space or someone to talk to, and really good at listening and giving good advice.”

However, as her children’s need for her energy lessened, Maleita searched for a new outlet for her passion. Enter the Beaumont Parenting Program. She heard about the program from a friend, and thought it was the perfect place for her. Since then, she has served as a hospital visitor and hearing screener for almost two years. Her favorite thing about her roles for the BPP is when she can reassure new parents and let them know that it will get easier.

So as Maleita’s children grew, the energy she spent to turn needy infants into inquisitive toddlers into learning children into productive adults transformed into the energy she uses to start new parents on their own energetic journey in the passion of parenting. Thank you, Maleita, for both your energy and passion!

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program volunteer

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Nathan Wright

Nathan Wright, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer

Nathan Wright participated in the Walk for Miracles,
supporting Beaumont Children’s Hospital

“Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, but they have the heart.” That quote is from Elizabeth Andrew, an Australian politician. Perhaps she knew the volunteers of the Beaumont Parenting Program, who consistently give of their hearts and their time, even though they often keep little of that time for themselves. That is certainly true of Nathan Wright, the focus of this “The Face of Beaumont Parenting.”

Nathan is a 19-year-old student at Oakland University from Macomb, Michigan. He’s studying elementary education to become a teacher, and says that his favorite children’s book is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. He serves the BPP as a hearing screener, and a tour guide for the Maternal Fetal Health unit. Tour guides provide prospective parents information about the facilities and services that Beaumont Health has to offer as these families bring their new babies into the world. Tour guides are often the first face that new parents put to the hospital experience, apart from their OBs, and they’re critical to the start of a great Beaumont experience for those families.

It isn’t surprising that Nathan’s favorite quote is the one given above. In addition to attending school, and volunteering in dual roles for the BPP, he’s also a recreational aide in Shelby Township. Beyond all of that, Nathan also does volunteer work for Circle K (an organization for college students, affiliated with Kiwanis, which promotes leadership, service and fellowship), Kids Against Hunger (whose mission is to fight hunger in children in the U.S. and around the world), and Meals on Wheels (which provides home delivered meals to homebound people in need). All of the heart Nathan gives to all of these organizations probably accounts for the fact that he feels he has little time — so little time, in fact, that he didn’t list any hobbies when I asked what he did in his spare time. (What’s spare time? Right, Nathan?)

With respect to his role as a BPP volunteer, Nathan says that he chose to volunteer to “give back to the community and because (he) love(s) the hospital environment.” He goes on to say that his favorite part of being a BPP volunteer is “meeting all the different patients and their families, and getting to know them in such a small amount of time.”

On behalf of the BPP, I would like to thank Nathan for the time, and the heart, that he gives to the families of the BPP. It seems certain that this young man will make the transition (just like the Very Hungry Caterpillar) from a caring college student who makes a difference to parents and their little ones, to an amazing elementary school teacher who makes a difference to little ones and their parents.

– Nicole Capozello is a Parenting Program volunteer

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Meliné Topouzian

Four sisters huddled together

Meliné Topouzian (on left) with her sisters (L to R) Teny, Knar, Ani

If you’re a regular reader of this feature, I think by now it’s clear how much the Beaumont Parenting Program volunteers do for the families they help. Those families receive invaluable information, incredible support and boundless caring. Each one of the BPP volunteers gives from their heart, with their mind and of their soul. Meeting this volunteer, however, got me thinking about how the BPP draws just the right people to provide that heart, mind and soul to our families; I found the BPP is a perfect picture of like recognizing like.

Meliné Topouzian is a 24-year-old woman from West Bloomfield who’s served as a Hearing Screening Volunteer for the past year. When asked what she learned from her experience as a Hearing Screening volunteer, Meliné discussed the value of clear communication and how the experience has improved her skills in that area. Meliné works in customer service for the Sports Club of West Bloomfield. Her hobbies include playing with her sisters, drawing and swimming. In fact, Meliné previously worked as a swim instructor for the Sports Club. In addition to her BPP volunteer work, Meliné also helps out 826michigan, a “non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students (ages 6 to 18) with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write”. Her favorite book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and her favorite children’s books are from the Amelia Bedelia series.

Meliné spends most of her free time with her large extended family, and with their Armenian-American community. She and her family attend dances, sporting events, and even an annual summer camp with their community. She explains how most of her friends and even her first job come from these experiences. “It’s overwhelming, because there’s always something to do, but it’s also something I’m very thankful for”, explains Meliné about her activities.

Clearly, Meliné is a woman familiar with community and the benefits of strong bonds among its members. So it isn’t surprising that Meliné easily recognized those qualities in the BPP.

When asked why she chose to volunteer for the BPP, Meliné spoke of the team-oriented atmosphere, the positive environment created by the Beaumont staff and volunteers, and how she found in the BPP a cohesive team fostering community. And so it is that the BPP draws just the right talent to serve our families. Talent like Meliné, who brings her energy and commitment and love of family – in its broadest definition – to the families she serves at Beaumont Hospital as a Hearing Screening Volunteer. And every community Meliné is a member of is certainly richer for her presence.

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program Volunteer


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