Gollnick finds her own angels at Abundant Living

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 20, 2012

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY – Back in July, I introduced you to Cherie Gollnick, the brave administrative assistant for Dr. Myron A. Goodman.
She quietly has been coping with various chemotherapy and radiation treatments for her stage 4 breast cancer. Excuse my subjective opinion here, but she’s a darling woman, imbued with grace and love for all and so appreciative of the prayers sent up for her by friends.
And complete strangers.
This is where the staff and participants at Abundant Living Adult Day Services come in. They read about Cherie and decided to make her their community project for August.
With the help of Assistant Activity Coordinator Robin Mashburn and other staff members, the older adults at Abundant Living chose Aug. 22 in particular, because it was designated on the calendar as “Be An Angel Day.”
So on homemade angels cut out by the staff, the Abundant Living folks wrote their messages of hope, encouragement and prayer to Gollnick – someone they didn’t actually know, yet a friend they realized needed their compassion.
At Abundant Living’s invitation Aug. 22, Cherie traveled to the adult day center for the participants and was presented with more than 50 angels.
“I got one from everyone here,” Gollnick said Wednesday when she returned to Abundant Living to see her new buddies. “It was totally unexpected, and it meant so much to me.”
Gollnick has taped the angels all over her house.
On that “Be an Angel Day” in August, Gollnick was able to give the adult day center participants some good news. An MRI just two days earlier showed her treatment was working. The tumors in her brain had disappeared and tumors in her lungs had shrunk to half the size they had been.
Her current treatment seems to be having some good effects.
“We were thrilled when she came in and said she had a good report,” Joy Verity said. “That was so thrilling to us. That blessed us all. We were so happy.”
On her return to Abundant Living Wednesday, Cherie met again with Verity, Joe Davis, Alice Linker, Brown Overcash, Hazel Craddock, John Harp and Mabel Beam.
Mashburn said the participants liked that their angels allowed them to write encouraging words to Cherie, “and let her know she is an encouragement to us, that she keeps going on like a Timex watch.”
Linker added, “We wanted her to know she’s a blessing for us.”
The Abundant Living participants enjoy doing community projects every month, and it fits in with this year’s theme of National Adult Services Week, which is “Care, Compassion and Community.”
In July, Abundant Living participants and their families brought snacks to their center at 1416 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and prepared baskets that were placed in the surgical waiting room at Rowan Regional Medical Center.
In February, they made “Valentine critters” that were taped to every lunch for Meals on Wheels recipients. In another month, they collected things for care packages for American soldiers in the Middle East.
This month, they have been gathering school supplies for children. They also routinely make cards for former participants whose health may be keeping them away from the center.
It’s just their effort to stay connected and let their friends know they’re thinking of them.
Abundant Living is one of 5,000 adult day centers in the country. It offers a lot of things for participants: daily activities; quiet places for rest; breakfast, lunch and snacks; medication management; bathing services; beauty and barber shops; and friendships.
Executive Director Barbara Garwood noted in her current newsletter that nationwide more than 260,000 participants and family caregivers were receiving day center services in 2010 – an increase of 62 percent from 2002.
Adult day services allow frail elderly and disabled adults to stay in their homes, while receiving affordable care during the day. Meanwhile, they also benefit family caregivers by enabling them to stay in the workforce or obtain some necessary rest and support services.
But a great side benefit, as Gollnick will tell you, is the compassion the day center participants still have for others.
For several years, as she has battled the return of her breast cancer (first diagnosed in 2000), Gollnick has been determined to keep working at Goodman’s office near the hospital.
But she recently has made the difficult decision to leave her job and all her work-related friends, so she can spend more time with her family, which includes a 3-year-old grandson.
Her last day at the office will be Oct. 12.
“I feel about the same,” she reported Wednesday. “My energy level is extremely low. But physically, I don’t feel bad.”
Her current treatment has her on a two-weeks-on, one-week-off schedule.
“There are things I’d like to do,” Gollnick said of the future. “And maybe I’ll want to stay home and do nothing.”
But one thing’s for sure: She’ll always have friends such as the people at Abundant Living.
“I’ve been blessed,” Cherie said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

Portrait exhibit opens tonight
Event: Opening reception
For: Faces of Abundant Living Portrait Exhibit
Where: Waterworks Visual Arts Center, 123 E. Liberty St.
When: 5-7 p.m. today