2023 LTCOP Volunteer Nominees for Older New Yorkers' Day

2023 LTCOP Volunteer Nominees for Older New Yorkers' Day

About

Each year, for Older New Yorkers' Day, NYSOFA receives nominations recognizing exceptional older-adult volunteers. Nominations are provided by local offices for the aging and Long Term Care Ombudsman Program regional offices. From among these nominees, the state's Long Term Care Ombudsman Program selects two Ombudsmen of the Year. Below are the 2023 Ombudsmen of the Year, along with honorary mention of several other nominees. 

Kathleen Roe: 2023 Ombudsman of the Year

Kathleen Roe’s volunteering journey of over 50 years began during her freshman year at Michigan State University. Since then, she has continued to be involved with human services organizations, providing vital assistance to facility residents through New York’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Roe is an extremely thoughtful volunteer, who considers all angles of the concerns that residents express to her, including collaboration with the regional office on relevant research of regulations. She has become adept at navigating her assigned facility, gaining knowledge of the culture of the facility and of key personnel. She supports a lively resident council, and she is forward thinking about the many challenges and aspects of providing care to long term care residents.

Fiona Dejardin: 2023 Ombudsman of the Year

Fiona Dejardin is an active volunteer in Otsego County. She works tirelessly for members of the community and many organizations, including significant volunteer hours with the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.

In addition to her weekly visits at facilities, she is always ready to go out to a facility when a case gets called into the office. Her compassion for the residents is always present and they look forward to her visits.

The staff is very receptive to her quiet diplomatic way of getting to the bottom of residents’ concerns. She works with the resident council to educate and empower them to speak up and make a change. She works tenaciously to help residents in her facilities.

Arnold Tanner

Upon his retirement in 2014, Arnold Tanner (Region 4 Ombudsman Program Nominee) was looking for volunteer work to keep active. He wanted to give back and help to make a change. He learned about the Ombudsman Program from his wife who was also a volunteer working with children and the local mental health association. Arnold has spent his time with the Ombudsman Program serving two facilities and helping numerous residents.

He believes that residents in nursing homes need advocates to do the work that no one else is doing. It is with this heart that Arnold continues to advocate and encourages others to volunteer as well.

Stephen Johnson

After retirement from Cornell University, Stephen Johnson (Region 12 Ombudsman Program Nominee) decided to use his advocacy skills for residents in local nursing homes. Not only does he put those skills to work, but he also fights for resident rights as a member of the Governing Board of Consumer Voice, a national organization that advocates for public policy, educates consumers of long-term health care, and supports direct-care workers. 

Stephen and his wife, Lorraine, reside in Ithaca, New York. After 40 years at Cornell, Stephen now spends much of his time volunteering in his community. He is a genuinely good human and a joy to be around, say his nominators.

Lynda Ames

Lynda Ames (Region 6 Ombudsman Program Nominee) is an exceptional volunteer ombudsman who often spends hours above and beyond her commitment time. She has established an excellent rapport with residents in her assigned facility. She is an astute listener, and carefully frames questions with the goal of developing a resident-centered solution to problems that residents express.          

A native Californian, Lynda attended UCLA, then UCSB for graduate school. She moved east in 1986, and then to New York in 1988. Ames retired from a career as a college teacher in 2019 and now spends her days volunteering and reading.

Beverly Cohen-Champagne

Beverly Cohen-Champagne (Region 6 Ombudsman Program Nominee) decided to give back after many years as a nursing home administrator by focusing on advocating for nursing home residents in her community. She is a patient listener, and she is careful to understand the details of residents' concerns while exploring with them how they would like to resolve a problem before proposing some ideas for paths forward. She supports her fellow volunteer ombudsmen by sharing good suggestions when colleagues are unsure of how to proceed.

This year Beverly had to step away from her duties at her assigned facility due to a close family member residing there. However, instead of completely stepping away from ombudsman volunteering, she offered to take on other duties, working as a "floating" volunteer, visiting facilities and seeing residents as needed.

Joan Chakonas

Joan Chakonas (Region 6 Ombudsman Program Nominee) consistently spends the highest number of hours at her assigned facility of all the ombudsmen in the region. She is very patient with residents and does not rush them as they confide the details of their concerns. She is eager to learn more about given topics and affords herself of webinar opportunities and other resources that give insight into the resident experience. 

Joan is from Averill Park, New York, but lived in New York City for 40 years, where she worked in insurance, finance, and business affairs. While living in New York City, she also studied at the Art Students League and is now an accomplished fine artist.

Catherine Kiehle

As a volunteer ombudsman, Catherine Kiehle (Region 13 Ombudsman Program Nominee) has brought to light a very serious food and nutrition problem impacting the residents at her assigned nursing home. She addressed the problem immediately, meeting with residents along with local and regional staff on a weekly basis. Thanks to her advocacy efforts, food service improvements were made, including new kitchen equipment and a reeducation of nutrition staff about food handling

Influenced by her parents and grandparents, Catherine knew at an early age that she wanted to work with older adults. She began her career as a case manager for a hospice program. She also worked at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and later at the Geneva Adult Day Care Program. Following her retirement, Catherine became a volunteer ombudsman where today she advocates for nursing home residents.

Cheryl Neu

Upon joining the Ombudsman Program volunteer corps 11 years ago, Cheryl Neu (Region 15 Ombudsman Program Nominee) was assigned to a facility which now houses 116 residents and offers housing to low-income residents, most of whom have significant mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. Few have external support, making the ombudsman role as an advocate even more vital. She is the only stable presence in their lives, as the facility has changed ownership several times. Cheryl spends hours in the facility each month, monitoring the residents’ medications, addressing their concerns, and working with the ownership to address concerns.

Cheryl lives in a rural suburb of Western New York with her husband, Ben. They enjoy traveling and have visited many of the country's national parks.