posttrib
SIMMERING 
Weather Updates

Jerry Davich: Do you know a senior volunteer extraordinaire?

Joe Tschidis photographed Saint Mary Church Griffith Ind. Wednesday March 6 2013 where he is property manager. Tschidalso volunteers for

Joe Tschida is photographed at Saint Mary Church in Griffith, Ind. Wednesday March 6, 2013, where he is property manager. Tschida also volunteers for Harbor Light Hospice. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 45687917
tmspicid: 16982250
fileheaderid: 7632539

Updated: April 9, 2013 11:05AM



Joseph Tschida keeps a thick stack of index cards marked with more than words, numbers and information, but also with invisible insights, lessons and memories.

The 74-year-old Griffith grandfather volunteers his time for Harbor Light Hospice, which is based in Crown Point though he rarely goes there. Instead, he travels the region alone every Thursday afternoon to meet with terminally ill patients.

Each hospice client he meets is represented by an index card, which he needs early on until he knows them better. Their life story, their near-death fears and, more importantly, their spiritual needs.

“I don’t meet with them as just a visitor or to care for their physical needs, but as someone to assist them if they have a spiritual need. Where they are, where they’re going and how to get there,” explained Tschida, who began his ministry more than a decade ago through a lay ministry program of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary.

As a “spiritual companion,” he visits hospice clients in nursing homes and private homes, from Gary to Dyer, whether they’re minutes or months from dying. Such volunteering is not “fun or enjoyable,” he pointed out, and on some Thursdays he doesn’t want to do it.

“It can be pretty heavy,” he confessed. “But I need to do it, for God.”

Tschida, who still works full-time as the property manager at St. Mary Parish in Griffith, said there are rewards to such somber volunteer work.

“I have a greater understanding to the meaning of life and of reconciling with God,” he noted. “I also have felt many people at true peace with themselves.”

I’m introducing you to Tschida because he is one of thousands of seniors in this region who are using their skills, talents and passions for volunteer work. Each week during my travels across Northwest Indiana I meet at least one or two of these seniors, and each one takes their volunteering seriously.

I’m sure you, too, know many of them, spending time in local schools, hospitals and other community organizations. In fact, I hope you do because the search is on for Indiana’s outstanding senior volunteer.

Conducted through the Salute to Senior Service program, sponsored by Home Instead Inc., it honors the contributions of adults 65 and older who give at least 15 hours a month of volunteer service to their favorite causes.

“These silent heroes give selflessly, expecting nothing in return,” said Sandi Haywood, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Northwest Indiana.

“And yet, their contributions often make a difference not only to the organizations they serve, but in changing how the public views growing older,” she added in a statement.

Nominations for outstanding senior volunteers will be accepted through the end of this month, and state winners will be selected by popular vote at SalutetoSeniorService.com. Online voting will take place April 15-30.

From those state winners, a panel of senior care experts will pick the national Salute to Senior Service honoree. Maybe it’s a senior you know who deserves your nomination. If anything, beyond such accolades that most seniors shun anyway, wouldn’t it be a nice gesture to recognize formally these citizens from our “greatest generation”?

Senior care professionals and those who work at hospitals, senior care facilities and other places where seniors volunteer are encouraged to nominate these often unheralded older adults. So, too, are family caregivers and the adult children of aging parents. Older adults also may self-nominate.

Home Instead Inc. will donate $500 to each of the state winners’ favorite nonprofit organizations, and their stories will be posted on the Salute to Senior Service Wall of Fame. In addition, $5,000 will be donated to the national winner’s charity of choice.

To submit a nomination form online and to view the contest’s official rules, visit SalutetoSeniorService.com. Completed nomination forms also can be mailed to Salute to Senior Service, P.O. Box 285, Bellevue, NE 68005. For more information, call 793-9023.

If no one has yet nominated Joseph Tschida, I’m doing it today.

On a younger note ...

Have you heard about “Camp Till A Cure,” in downstate Noblesville, through the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana?

There, many kids from Northwest Indiana can visit each summer to learn more about their disease, but also to forget about it for a while.

“When I got to camp I realized that everyone there was worried about the same things I have to deal with everyday,” said 13-year-old Jacob Dietrich of Francesville, a Type 1 diabetic. “We all had to count carbs, check levels and take insulin. At Camp Till A Cure, I was normal.”

I tell you about this camp because it will be the recipient of proceeds from this year’s Mike Ratley Memorial Rock ’N’ Roll Concert.

If you recall, I wrote last March about Ratley, a mill worker and musician from Merrillville who died from complications of diabetes on Nov. 24, 2011. He was just 52.

“Our goal is to raise enough money to send a few young people to camp this summer and change their lives,” said Mike’s widow, Rita Ratley.

The couple’s musician son, Luke, a Merrillville High School junior, took part in last year’s fundraising concert and he will be doing it again.

The event is this Saturday night from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 1400 S. Broad St. in Griffith. The event will include food, a cash bar and all kinds of prizes. For more information, call 614-5053.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.