Janell Faletto named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year

September 14, 2011

By Christopher Huber

Janell Faletto wasn’t quite sure why she responded to a volunteer opportunity listing in her church bulletin in 2003, but she thought it would be nice to work with the elderly. The retired elementary school teacher had worked with children for 31 years.

“I thought working with elders would be a nice change from working with children,” she said.

So she signed up as a volunteer for Faith in Action, a Sammamish organization that helps independent seniors with everyday things. Since then, Faletto, who also volunteers with other local organizations and Mary, Queen of Peace, has given more than 1,000 hours and countless miles driven in her car to take needy seniors to medical appointments, do household chores or pick up groceries.

The Faith in Action National Network recently recognized Faletto as an “Outstanding Volunteer” for 2011, said Kelly McAninch, the national network’s administrative assistant.

Faletto, a 26-year Sammamish resident, was one of just 12 nominated for the Volunteer of the Year award from local Faith in Action entities around the country.

“She’s really like my go-to person,” said Margie Costello, Sammamish Faith in Action’s volunteer coordinator. “A lot of people would not be getting to these appointments if she didn’t take them.”

Faletto said she was honored to receive the recognition, but was modest in her reaction to the news.

“It’s always nice to be appreciated,” she said.

Since 2003, she has given 125 hours in housekeeping and visitation service, according to Faith in Action’s tally, and spent about 1,060 hours driving Sammamish seniors to medical appointments and other errands.

The organization also estimated that Faletto has driven approximately 13,500 miles during her service time, based on weekly service reports.

About 45,000 people live in Sammamish, according to the 2010 Census. Of those, 2,175 are older than age 65, Petersky said. And 91 of them are homebound, non-disabled seniors — the folks Faith in Action helps.

Faith in Action’s mission is to help seniors live independently for as long as possible in their own home before potentially entering a retirement-living or long-term, in-home care situation. The organization’s volunteers do whatever needs to be done to help those 91 seniors with that, Costello said, whether it’s driving a person to a doctor appointment, cleaning the house, picking up groceries or maintaining the yard.

“I’ve learned how easy it is to just say ‘yes’ to people,” Faletto said. “I think there are so many things out there that you can do with so little time.”

While Faletto physically drives seniors and helps with housework, what often goes un-noticed is the emotional support someone gets just by being with her. Many homebound seniors are isolated and don’t see many friends or family during much of the week, Costello said. Simple conversations can make a big difference.

“It’s so important. For many people, it might be the only time in their week that they get out of the apartment,” Faletto said. “That’s extremely important that they have some communication with somebody and know that somebody cares about them.”

Faletto, a longtime member at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church, is matched with a Sammamish resident through Faith in Action and is available on-call for other needs that come up, said Claire Petersky, executive director of Faith in Action Sammamish.

Faletto also volunteers for Multi-faith Works and drives to Seattle regularly to help a person living with HIV. At her church, she has also been involved in the Helping Hands and funeral ministries and is a Eucharistic minister, which means she can bring communion to the sick or dying.

“She’s just amazing, in all the service that she gives to the community,” Petersky said.

Visit www.faithinaction4seniors.org to learn more or to sign up as a volunteer.

Reporter Christopher Huber can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com.

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