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Couples Rekindle Romance As Volunteers At Danbury Hospital

John and Josephine Luicci of Danbury have volunteered at Danbury Hospital for 35 years.
John and Josephine Luicci of Danbury have volunteered at Danbury Hospital for 35 years. Photo Credit: Contributed
Bethel residents Sam and Molly Berger, sweethearts for 51 years, volunteer at Danbury Hospital.
Bethel residents Sam and Molly Berger, sweethearts for 51 years, volunteer at Danbury Hospital. Photo Credit: Contributed

DANBURY, Conn. -- Couples from upper Fairfield County have found a way to rekindle their romance while volunteering at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals.

Brookfield residents Jill and Harold Kaplan, volunteers at Danbury Hospital have often compared their volunteering to a date night. According to Jill, married almost 44, “they're both something we very much look forward to. There's a special feeling you get inside when you give of yourself.”

While in his 40s, Harold had a heart attack and was treated at Danbury Hospital. According to Kaplan, the level of care provided in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was outstanding and nursing staff were amazing. He was transferred to Yale to undergo quadruple bypass surgery, which was not available in Danbury at the time. After recuperating from his surgery, Harold knew he wanted to become a volunteer.

His wife Jill, recalled being alone in the waiting room when she was informed of her husband’s condition. She still remembers the feelings she had when it seemed like her world was crashing down in that waiting room. “I often wished while sitting in the ICU, that someone would come by and just ask how I was doing,'' she said.

She added, “As a caregiver, I lived through the tough decision-making process when Harold needed care,” so after Harold became a volunteer, I often thought about what caregivers are called upon to do and I always knew I wanted to help families in some way.”

About four years ago, when Harold came home and told Jill about plans for the Goldstone Caregiver Center, the first of its kind in Connecticut, she knew it would be a perfect match for her. She was one of the first volunteers to sign up. Jill received extensive training as a caregiver coach. “We both feel the hospital is such an important part of our lives now and we both leave feeling good about ourselves which carries home with us. For me, if I can make one family member smile, I feel like I've given them a gift for that moment.”

Married nearly 50 years, John and Josephine Luicci of Danbury also enjoy spending time together volunteering. They’ve loyally served in a volunteer capacity for more than 35 years. Nearly inseparable since a chance encounter while in Josephine’s Bronx elementary school classroom years ago, she fondly recalls the young dapper John visiting her students while in uniform to discuss what it was like to serve the community as a police officer.

Somehow she knew then, the two would be destined to make a difference in the lives of others. While on sabbatical from school, Josephine started volunteering at the information desk. She has seen the hospital grow by leaps and bounds over the years. Once she went back to work, she continued to volunteer during the summer and while on school vacations until she retired. At that point, volunteering became even more of a passion for her.

It took no nudging for John to become a volunteer ambassador at the hospital shortly after Josephine started. “It’s so nice to volunteer as a couple because you share your experiences with each other,” said John. In addition to volunteering at Danbury Hospital, they also volunteer at Connecticut Radio Information Service (CRIS), a sideband of Danbury, radio station, 98Q, WDAQ-FM where they read the “Danbury News-Times” to blind and print-handicapped listeners.

“We highly recommend volunteering as a couple if you have the chance,” says Josephine. “John is my best friend. There is nothing more meaningful than volunteering together. As a couple you both get more out of the experience then you will ever imagine.”

Bethel residents Sam and Molly Berger, sweethearts for 51 years, say although they have separate assignments, they enjoy their roles meeting and interacting with patients and visitors whenever they come in. “We sometimes have lunch together after we volunteer and it’s good for our relationship because our day is planned out and we can both keep busy,'' Molly said.

After receiving medical treatment at New Milford Hospital in 1998, Allen and Judy Cohen decided to explore volunteer opportunities within the hospital. They were both so impressed by the wonderful care offered by hospital staff; they felt it was their duty to give back to the community in a meaningful way.

Since then, Judy and Allen Cohen have contributed countless volunteer hours to the New Milford Hospital family. Initially, Judy and Allen volunteered on different days but eventually decided to volunteer on the same day so they could be together. Although Allen claims it was a mutual decision between the two of them to volunteer at New Milford Hospital, Judy chuckled “he bosses and I do.” Sounds like a recipe for success!

Patty Groeschner has volunteered at New Milford Hospital for 14 years and her husband Bob has been a volunteer for more than 13 years. “Volunteering has energized us individually and also as a couple,” says Bob. Volunteering in the cancer center has enabled them to make many valued friendships with patients and staff over the years. “We have always felt very valued here,” said Patty. Patty and Bob have been married for 48 years and believe volunteering has added so much depth to their relationship.

Learn more about volunteering at Danbury or New Milford Hospitals by calling 203-739-7384 or email volunteer@wchn.org.

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