An interview with Marie Clare (Tiz) Guagenti. Her Role: Winner of the Catherine McAuley Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteering.
1. What is the Catherine McAuley Lifetime Achievement Award?
The award is given to someone for a lifetime of giving your time and service to others. Back in the early 1800s, Catherine McAuley, who had spent most of her life helping others, founded the Sisters of Mercy. In the mid-1800s, Sister Frances Warde came to Pittsburgh with seven other sisters to establish the first U.S. Mercy congregation and the first Mercy hospital.
2. Why were you chosen?
You know, I really don’t know why they picked me or what the criteria is. I know once I was thought of they talked to my kids and grandkids. My kids wrote some of the speech that was done.
3. How did you find out you won the award?
The day of the volunteer banquet, May 15, is when I found out. They gave a little synopsis of the winner. A friend of mine said they were talking about me, and I told her that, “No, they weren’t.” I had a hint though when they read that the person’s kids said she never said she was going to volunteer but going to work because I always said that — I was going to do my job. Then when they said her husband had passed away, and she was a breast cancer survivor, I realized it was me. I was flabbergasted. It means so much to me and it’s a great honor. I got a plaque, and I also got letters of recognition from the White House and Matt Huffman who is in the Ohio House of Representatives. I could barely speak when I got the award, my heart was pounding so hard.
4. How long have you been volunteering, and how did you get started?
I started in 1975 when my children all started school. I have four children — one girl and three boys. Mother was a volunteer and she encouraged me to volunteer too, but I said I had to wait until all the kids were in school. Once they went to school, I started once a month in the baby pictures, I think. Then I did twice a month and it just sort of gradually built up from there.
5. Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer at St. Rita’s and am a member of the Auxiliary. I’ve done various parts of the hospital — the thrift barn, the gift shop, the coffee cart and hospitality carts when we had those, flower arranging. I’m on the tranquility team which is very near to my heart and the craft club, special projects. I was a past president of the auxiliary, too. I also volunteer at St. Charles. I do Communion distribution, help with funeral dinners, cook for the priest or deanery on a monthly basis, and work on a couple other functions, too.
6. How many hours a week do you volunteer?
It varies. I work on an average about three days a week when you balance it out over the year. Usually, you work about four to five hours at a time depending on what you are working on. Holiday time is busier.
7. What do you enjoy the most?
The thing I really love is once a month we have a tranquility tea for cancer patients. We bring tea and cookies up to that floor and present them with a small floral arrangement. We only do that if the patient is allowed though. The response has been nice. We try to brighten their day if we can. If there’s a guest with them, we offer them tea and cookies, too. As a breast cancer survivor, I know some of what they are going through. I also love the floral arranging — planting the plants. Really, any job I do I enjoy. I’ve also made some fabulous friendships through volunteering.
8. What would you tell someone who is thinking of volunteering?
I would tell them it is very rewarding no matter what field. You make great friends. I was always taught to give something back to those who help others. My mother always was one to volunteer. I tried to instill this in my kids too.