Jefferson Award Winner, April 2017: Joanne Gladden - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Jefferson Award Winner, April 2017: Joanne Gladden

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OREGON (WKOW) -- Joanne Gladden is a remarkable volunteer for Agrace, offering support and friendship to many in their final stages of life.

She's been volunteering for six years, helping patients like 90-year-old Ruth Ann Smith, who's suffering from heart failure.

"I'm in a lot of pain and I've been awfully, awfully sick. Joanne knows that," says Ruth Ann. "I feel that God sent her to me. She is special."

It's a gift Joanne wanted to give, because she was once a patient herself, battling breast cancer.

"I was just so cared for and I think that does motivate me. You know, you want to give back as well," says Joanne.

Every week, Joanne visits patients at Sienna Crest Assisted living in Oregon.

"I would be lost without you," says Ruth Ann.

Joanne reads to them, feeds them, even helps with transportation.

She also spends time with dementia patients.

"It gives me a sense of connection. It gives me a sense of purpose and meaning in my life," she says. 

Finding that meaning was instilled in Joanne at a young age.

"Growing up there was a strong family ethic about volunteering. I volunteered in prisons, I volunteered in homeless shelters."

She became a nurse practitioner to continue her service.

Now retired, Joanne's given about a thousand hours to Agrace.

Volunteer coordinator Emily Corron says, "What she is learning from the patients, she's sharing with the care team and really making sure there's follow up with any concerns, any questions the patient has. It builds trust with them, respect, they feel listened to. They don't feel like a patient they feel like a person."

Joanne says, "I think many people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. It's been such a wonderful journey."

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