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Last Chance for White Pants raises nearly $60,000 for VNA Hospice Center

Over 200 attendees crowded the gorgeous Stardust Ballroom at the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel, and Spa Saturday evening, September 14th to share a meal and help raise awareness of the Visiting Nurses Association of Northwest Indiana, as well as to raise money needed to update the Arthur B. and Ethel V. Horton VNA Hospice Center in Valparaiso.


VNA Hospice appoints Drs. Venditti and Patel

The VNA of Northwest Indiana welcomes Joseph Venditti, M.D., F.A.C.S, F.A.C.C., F.A.C.C.P., as its Hospice Medical Director. Dr. Venditti was born in Massachusetts, and attended the University of Miami and New York University for his undergraduate studies. He went to medical school at the University of Pavia in Italy, interned at SUNY Buffalo, and completed residencies in Western New York at SUNY Buffalo and Roswell Park Memorial Institute. He is certified as a Fellow from the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. Dr. Venditti has been on staff at Porter since 1987 and at La Porte Hospital since 2004 and currently serves as a Trustee of La Porte Hospital and is the President of its Medical Staff. He is also a Physician Advisor for Porter’s Case Management Department. Dr. Venditti is married with three children, nine grandchildren and lives in Valparaiso.


The VNA of Northwest Indiana is also pleased to welcome Sunil Patel, MD, as a VNA Hospice Physician. Dr. Patel completed his medical education at B.J. Medical College in Ahmedabad, Gujarat India, and did his residency at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. He is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Patel is an Internal Medicine physician who has served as a Hospitalist at Porter Hospital since 2011, and prior to that was in private practice in Michigan City, Chesterton and Valparaiso. Dr. Patel is married, lives in Valparaiso with his wife, and has two children and three grandchildren.


Dr. Venditti and Dr. Patel will work hand in hand with VNA Hospice patients’ primary care physicians and VNA staff to develop and implement care plans that meet each patient’s individual needs. They will also provide clinical guidance to the VNA Hospice program and oversee the organization’s protocol for pain and symptom management.


“The addition of Dr. Venditti and Dr. Patel to our hospice team is an immense benefit to our patients, our staff, and our community. Their experience and leadership will be a great asset in helping us continue to provide the best quality care to our patients and their families. The VNA is even better positioned to meet the growing need for hospice care in Northwest Indiana,” noted Robert Franko, VNA President & CEO. “It’s likewise important that both Drs. Venditti and Patel live and work in this community, are well respected by their peers, and know very well the needs and challenges of our population,” said Franko.


Trust is the Cornerstone of Care at VNA of Northwest Indiana

It’s my privilege to serve as the new President/CEO of the VNA of Northwest Indiana. I’m humbled and honored beyond words to lead this organization and know that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants of past board members, supporters, and especially founder Laura Harting. To be given the trust of our board and staff, of our patients and community is an awesome thing. Trust.


It’s a big word. It means a lot of things in different contexts; bankers think about it one way, investors have a different take, but for most of us it is the foundation of our relationships. Trust is the conglomeration of a lot of different components such as integrity, faith, loyalty, and commitment. It is not to be taken lightly, nor is it a commodity whose value fluctuates with whatever conditions exist. I take it very seriously.


I know this community has a large stake in the VNA. It is a valued non-profit, a valued service provider, and a trusted friend during deeply sad and heartbreaking times when we lose loved ones. It’s hard to find anyone in our region whose life hasn’t been touched by the VNA in some aspect.


I also know that there’s been some confusion in recent years about the VNA. When the decision was made to transition our home health services to our valued partner Porter Health, some thought that was the end of the VNA. It wasn’t. It was really a new beginning.


Today we are a vibrant hospice provider that is expanding into palliative care. We provide thousands of Meals on Wheels to our neighbors, install and maintain LifeLine emergency services in hundreds of homes, and provide bereavement services for kids in our Phoenix Center. Our Horton Inpatient Unit is going through a beautiful transformation and modernization to make it even more comfortable and reassuring for patients and families. Our caring providers visit dozens of homes and nursing facilities every day to provide comfort, relief and support for patients and their loved ones.


We value your trust in us. If we’ve done anything to lose it, please let me know. Losing trust in anyone or anything can be tragic. I’m asking for your continued support, for your feedback, and for your renewed trust in YOUR VNA.


But mostly, I thank you for supporting this organization for nearly 50 years and for giving us the privilege of your trust when it matters most.


VNA Stroll for Hospice News

The Visiting Nurse Association's 18th annual VNA Stroll for Hospice is right around the corner - Sunday, May 5th. Onsite registration begins at 12 noon and the stroll steps off at 1:15 pm at Central Park Plaza, 63 Lafayette Street in Valparaiso.

Registration is $10 per walker, with children 18 and under free. Teams of 6 or more may register for $50 per team. Click the title above for more information or to simply make a donation if you are not able to attend the VNA Stroll for Hospice.

Know all you need to know?

Download a printable registration form!

Download a pledge sheet!

Check out our fun puzzle pledge sheet!


Robert J. Franko named as VNA President & CEO




Robert J. Franko, formerly President and CEO of HealthFirst Bluegrass Community Health Center in Lexington, Kentucky, became President of VNA of Northwest Indiana effective January 1, 2019.  Franko is a native of Northwest Indiana.  He was Vice President for Development and Marketing for Portet-Starke Services from 1996 to 2010.  He was Vice President, Marketing, for Marketing and National Training Coordinator for Cherokee Health Systems in Knoxville, TN, for six years before joining HealthFirst Bluegrass Community Health Center.  He earned his BS and MBA Degrees from Purdue University.


In announcing his appointment Cindy Kaarianen Tougaw, Chairperson of the VNA Board, indicated his selection came after a national search.  “We had about 70 responses that were evaluated before our Search Committee focused on Mr. Franko.  His extensive experience in healthcare, his record of community engagement and his experience as a Chief Executive Officer were important criteria that he met.  The fact that he is a native of our area and “knows the territory” was a definite plus factor.  I’m pleased that our employees and volunteers were represented on the Search Committee.  Their perspective was very helpful”


Franko said he was particularly pleased to join VNA of Northwest Indiana.  “I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable organization.  I’ve known about it for years, of course, but I see it as an increasingly important component of the region’s healthcare system.  The Hospice and Palliative Care programs of VNANWI are enabling people with terminal illnesses or difficult to manage pain and distress to have a higher quality of life than would otherwise be possible.  The VNA Meals on Wheels Program for Porter County, the Lifeline Emergency Response System and the Phoenix Center are incredibly important regional services as well.” 


During his previous tenure in the region, Franko was active in a number of community and regional organizations, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors of both HealthLink and the Mental Health Alliance of Porter County as well as the Boards of Directors of Housing Opportunities and the Valparaiso Kiwanis Club.  He was a surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and earlier in his career he was a sports writer for the Post Tribune and the Northwest Indiana Times.  He replaces Leigh Morris, who has served as Interim President and CEO since June.

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