Joni’s life desire was to serve those in need, to envelop them in warmth, kindness, and caring. The following is her reflection on the path that led her to the founding of the Gateway House of Peace.
As a young girl, I thought that I would one day become a nurse. For 32 years my career path was that of a Dental Assistant, with so many of those years also encompassing my volunteer work with Hospice. My life’s desire to serve those in need, to envelop them in warmth, kindness and caring, has come full circle.
My Aunt Helene was an Executive Assistant to the CEO of Hospice Buffalo for many years, and in my younger years, I would visit her there often. When my Grandmother Jane went to this facility to live out the final days of her life’s journey, I visited her every day and so enjoyed my time with her as we watched her favorite show, Oprah. Jane was a tenacious woman, so when she strongly encouraged me to become a Hospice volunteer, I heeded her advice. Upon her passing, I waited the mandated one years’ time, then joined the ranks of Hospice volunteers. The year was 1998, and that tenaciousness was in my blood too, and would eventually lead me to found the Gateway House of Peace.
When my husband’s job necessitated a move to the Capital District of New York, I transferred my volunteer activities to a community home for the dying, Mary’s Haven, in Saratoga Springs. There I learned the inner workings and business end of providing care and support to individuals as they journey through the dying process. More and more, I witnessed the need for more beds to meet the needs of the terminally ill. And my passion to provide that grew exponentially as I continued to volunteer. In 2006, I incorporated what would become a community support home for end-of-life care, the Gateway House of Peace. The groundwork was hard, with my husband, myself and many volunteers spending countless hours renovating the house; and every minute of that hard work was worth it. I felt blessed to be part of this community, to be privileged to embrace our residents and their families as our extended family, and to welcome all those who graciously volunteered to make this possible. I am just an ordinary person, and there was a time when I never thought I would be called to serve in this capacity. But as I grew older, I came to realize that this was deeply embedded in my heart, and that this was God’s plan for my life.
Aunt Helene and Grandmother Jane gave me wings. Volunteering with Hospice taught me to fly. The Gateway House of Peace, with its dedicated and caring board of directors, volunteers and staff, and its residents and their families, allowed me to soar. I feel grateful, satisfied, and very blessed. I look forward to seeing the heights that the Gateway House of Peace will reach in the years to come. And I invite each and every one of you to join us on this journey.