February 2018 Volunteer of the Month

June Pongia

june-pongia-feb-2018June Pongia has always known the value of time. She values every year that she has spent knowing her husband Tod, every moment spent with her children and grandchildren, and every second of time that has allowed for new family moments to flourish.

When June’s mother-in-law, Betty Pongia, was diagnosed with ALS in 1999, June was despondent. June had known Tod and his mother, Betty, since she was just 14 years old. She had spent time with her future mother-in-law over many years. Time is what made her family, not just marriage or genetics.

As June tended to her "second mother," she saw how ALS robbed her of more time. The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter President Ellyn Phillips connected June and her family to the Chapter and June saw how the disease impacted so many other families in the same way. The disease could take so much from a person and from their loved ones. Not only did ALS affect one’s health or their savings, but it stole the time they had to spend with others and the peace and happiness that came with spending moments with others who cared for them.

At the time of Betty’s diagnosis, June was busy raising her children and working as a bookkeeper for APS Wireless, Tod’s business. Tod and June created fundraisers to help the Chapter support more families with ALS in the area. For nearly 20 years, the Pongias have supported many Chapter events and programs because they know how devastating ALS can be for a family.

The disease made a lasting impact on June and she took it upon herself to try to provide emotional support to ALS families she met, especially children and young adults who needed peace and comfort. She knew that time may not heal all wounds, but time could mend many of them.

Soon June came to the Chapter and asked "What else can I do to help?" The answer she received was, "Your time."

Ellyn Phillips introduced June to Chapter nurse Gail Houseman, who advises the Chapter’s Visiting Volunteer Program. June would provide comfort and support to a person with ALS and their family. She saw it as a gift, both from her to the person with ALS, and a gift from them to her. Each moment was precious.

As a Visiting Volunteer, June has taken people to doctor's appointments, attended to errands, or just sat to chat over a cup of tea. Over the years, these individuals with ALS became as close as family. Some of them even would come to June’s home and meet her children and her beloved animal family.

When June Pongia supports Chapter events today, she does so not just with the understanding of how the disease impacted her "second mother," but also how the Chapter can provide people with ALS the attention and time that they desire. Her visits involve more than sitting with someone and watching a clock until it is time to go home. She approaches each visit by giving her full attention, listening to not only someone’s needs, but to who they are as a person. Being there, truly being there is her way of demonstrating to them that someone cares about them beyond the physical symptom of a disease.

The Visiting Volunteer program, especially with ambassadors like June who approach each meeting with compassion, is another way for the Chapter to show its commitment to caring for a person with ALS. The values of the Chapter are the same as those that June brings to her friends and family: to be there for every person with ALS sincerely and compassionately.

June has often said that Ellyn Phillips’ dedication to The ALS Association is contagious, but a person is only able to catch on to that contagious devotion to others if they share the same character and outlook on life. She is equally grateful to Gail Houseman for her guidance and praise.

Our Chapter is grateful that June has been willing to give so much of her time to supporting people with ALS. She is proud of her husband, Tod, daughter, Samantha and son, TJ, as well as her son-in-law Brendan and grandson Declan. She is also proud to add so many others as part of her "second family," to whom she gives back with so much love and attention. All of us at The ALS Association are fortunate to have June Pongia lifting up our values and mission with every moment she gives.


 
 

The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter
321 Norristown Road - Suite 260, Ambler, PA 19002
215-643-5434

The ALS Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.