Dynamic Duo: Volunteer Lead and Therapy Dog Win Hospice Award

Stephanie Peppe, Hospice Volunteer Manager, and our beloved hospice therapy dog Sophia won the 2024 Florence Wald Award for Excellence in End-of-Life Care – Volunteer Award.

Pictured: Stephanie Peppe, Hospice Volunteer Manager, and Sophia (Therapy Dog), along with Theresa Santoro, RVNAhealth President & CEO, and the RVNAhealth Hospice and Palliative Care teams.

We are incredibly proud to announce that our very own Stephanie Peppe, Hospice Volunteer Manager, and our beloved hospice therapy dog Sophia won the 2024 Florence Wald Award for Excellence in End-of-Life Care – Volunteer Award. The award was presented at the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home Statewide Hospice & Palliative Care Annual Summit.

About the Award

Stephanie Peppe, Hospice Volunteer Manager, and our beloved hospice therapy dog Sophia won the 2024 Florence Wald Award for Excellence in End-of-Life Care – Volunteer Award.
Stephanie and Sophia are pictured here with Florence Wald’s daughter, Shari Vogler

The award was established to honor Florence Wald, a pioneer in improving the care of dying patients worldwide. Florence Wald’s focus on an interdisciplinary approach to end-of-life care led her to open the first hospice in the United States (here in Connecticut!) in 1971. As a visionary leader with an unwavering commitment to social justice and reverence for life, she invited patient, family, and team participation. She truly listened to their input which ultimately started the hospice reform movement in this country.

A Passion for Hospice Volunteers

In her role as Hospice Volunteer Manager, Stephanie Peppe is crucial in recruiting, training, and overseeing volunteers who provide invaluable support to hospice patients and their loved ones. Stephanie manages a team of 70+ volunteers and in the past 12 months, they have provided over 1,600 hours of help in the office and the field visiting patients and their family members.  Stephanie is steadfast in her mission to educate and inspire others to recognize the value of hospice volunteerism. “People are usually drawn to hospice volunteer work because of a positive personal experience with a loved one,” she says. “But I encourage all to consider hospice as a volunteer path. It really doesn’t take much except being there — sitting with a patient, walking the dog, or providing respite for the family so they can run errands,” she says. “Presence means the absolute world to patients and their families.”

Welcoming our Therapy Dog

On June 8, 2021, RVNAhealth welcomed Sophia, RVNAhealth’s Hospice Therapy Dog. Sophia was trained at ECAD — Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities and was originally intended to be a seeing-eye dog, but her calm demeanor and mild pace ultimately destined her to be the perfect facility/therapy dog. In addition to her hospice volunteer role, Stephanie took on the lead role for our pet therapy program.

A Dynamic Duo for RVNAhealth Hospice

Together, Stephanie and Sophia have helped pioneer a special approach to hospice care, bringing comfort and companionship to patients in a unique and meaningful way. Sophia’s presence has been a source of joy and comfort to many, embodying the spirit of compassion and companionship that is central to hospice care.

Stephanie’s tenacity in challenging misconceptions about hospice care, her dedication to educating and inspiring others, and her innovative use of animal-assisted therapy with Sophia truly set her apart as a leader in the field of end-of-life care. Sophia’s role as a therapy dog has brought comfort and joy to many patients and their families, highlighting the importance of companionship and emotional support in hospice care. Together, Stephanie and Sophia have touched the lives of countless individuals, embodying the spirit of Florence Wald’s interdisciplinary approach to end-of-life care. Congratulations to Stephanie and Sophia for embodying the spirit of excellence in hospice care!

For More Information About Volunteering at RVNAhealth

Watch Sophia, star in ‘A Day in the Life of a Hospice Volunteer”

RVNAhealth welcomes all inquiries for volunteer opportunities. The RVNAhealth volunteer program offers safe and diverse opportunities for donating time in a way that is purposeful and meaningful for everyday heroes of all ages. Share the gift of your time across our robust organization in an administrative role, or join our Hospice volunteer corps, dedicated to supporting patients and families at end-of-life. A little known fact specific to our hospice volunteers program — RVNAhealth, and all Medicare-certified hospice programs, are required by law to have 5% of service hours performed by volunteers.  Why?  Because hospice care in the U.S. was founded by volunteers, and the commitment to the power, beauty, and altruism of volunteering remains!

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering at RVNAhealth, please visit us here and fill out our Volunteer Inquiry Form.



About RVNAhealth

 RVNAhealth is a private, 501c(3) non-profit organization which provides a continuum of care to people in 35+ towns across Fairfield, Litchfield, and New Haven Counties. RVNAhealth depends on financial support from individuals like you who believe that healthy communities improve the quality of life for everyone. Every gift — no matter the size — is critical to upholding our mission and sustaining our important work. If you would like to support RVNAhealth’s mission to deliver unmatched, compassionate healthcare when and where it is needed, please click here.

Fairfield County Bank ’23 Nursing Scholarships Announced

2023 Fairfield County Bank Nursing Scholarship Winners at RVNAhealth

Pictured left to right: Lauren Messina, Hospice RN; Keri Linardi, RVNAhealth Chief Clinical Officer; Dan Berta, President of Fairfield County Bank; Theresa Santoro, RVNAhealth President & CEO; Jennifer Christensen, RVNAhealth Donor Engagement Officer; Missing: Elaine Leitao, QAPI RN

The gift of education is an investment in an individual, unlocking their potential, providing knowledge, and wielding the power to shape the trajectory of their life. Each year since 2019, a fortunate few RVNAhealth staff members have been recipients of this invaluable gift, made possible by scholarships generously provided by Fairfield County Bank—a steadfast supporter and believer in the mission of RVNAhealth.

The 2023 recipients of the Fairfield County Bank Nursing Scholarships include:

Elaine Leitao, QAPI RN, HCS-D, started with RVNAhealth in 2018 as a field nurse, left the agency for a brief time, and returned in 2020 during the COVID pandemic. She is working on her MSN at Chamberlain University. “The significance of this scholarship in shaping my journey and guiding me to my present position cannot be overstated. The support from Fairfield County Bank and RVNAhealth has empowered me to strive for excellence in both personal and professional aspects. I look forward to my continued future career growth with RVNAhealth!”

Lauren Messina, RVNAhealth Hospice RN with client
Lauren Messina, Hospice RN, with client

Lauren Messina, Hospice RN, recently completed her APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) with the help of the scholarship. Joining RVNAhealth during the pandemic, she echoed similar appreciation. “I feel extremely fortunate to have been a beneficiary of the scholarship granted by Fairfield County Bank. My interest in advancing my education and returning for my APRN occurred during COVID, as I was encouraged and inspired by those around me.  The scholarship allowed me financial assistance while also providing me with a sense of support from the RVNAhealth community. I am looking forward to utilizing this advanced certification to improve the quality of the lives of those individuals we are dedicated to caring for.”

Keri Linardi, Chief Clinical Officer, RN, BSN, PHN, CHPCA is attending Central Connecticut State University to complete her Master of Science in Nursing. As both a recipient of this scholarship and clinical leader at RVNAhealth, Keri added, “These annual awards have impacted so many in the RVNAhealth organization. I extend my heartfelt thanks to Fairfield County Bank for investing in the education of our employees and not only broadening the horizons of our staff but also contributing to the strength of our team as a whole.”

A True Partner, Mentor, and Friend

Fairfield County Bank sponsorship of RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast
Fairfield County Bank table at RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast 2023
Thank you to Fairfield County Bank for donation of their billboard space to RVNAhealth
RVNAhealth billboard on I-95 in Norwalk, thanks to Fairfield County Bank!

Fairfield County Bank has been a steadfast partner of RVNAhealth for nearly three decades. Through lead sponsorships at fundraising events, serving on our Board of Directors, the Nursing Scholarship Program, donating space on their I-95 billboard in Norwalk, and through their dedicated employees who have supported us with invaluable guidance, advice, and unwavering support through numerous volunteer hours — Fairfield County Bank’s influence on RVNAhealth is beyond measure. As summarized by Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA, President & CEO of RVNAhealth, “They stand as not just a sponsor, but a true partner, mentor, and friend. We are profoundly appreciative.”


Celebrating Our Nurse-Family Partnership National Award Winner

NFP's Laura Shulman Cordeira

Congratulations to RVNAhealth’s Laura Shulman Cordeira, MPH, on her receipt of the 2023 Tenacious Caregiver Award presented by the National Service Office at their National Symposium in Seattle on September 12th.  Shulman Cordeira, RVNAhealth’s Community Health & Wellness Director, was recognized for her role as a program Administrator for her leadership in growing Nurse-Family Partnership at RVNAhealth.

About RVNAhealth’s Nurse Family Partnership

Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a national program offered through the National Service Office (NSO) that serves first-time pregnant people affected by economic inequality and their children. Each program participant is paired with a nurse home visitor from pregnancy until the child turns 2.

Nurse-Family Partnership at RVNAhealth launched in 2020 and is only the second NFP program in the state of Connecticut.  Funded by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, the program has served 98 moms and 65 babies and celebrated 8 graduates from the 2.5-year-long program. This voluntary free program is for people pregnant with their first child, who meet income guidelines, and reside in Western Connecticut.

When combined with traditional medical care, national program statistics show that families participating experience a 48% reduction in child abuse and neglect, a 56% decrease in ER visits for accidents and poisonings, an 18% decrease in pre-term births, and an increase in breastfeeding initiation. There are also several long-term benefits to participants, including 67% reduction in behavioral/intellectual challenges at age 6, 61% fewer arrests of the mother, and 59% reduction in child arrests at age 15.

2023 Tenacious Caregiver Award for NFP Administrator

RVNAhealth's Laura Cordeira Wins National NFP Award
Shulman Cordeira, 4th from left, 2023 Tenacious Caregiver – NFP Administrator. National Symposium, Seattle, Washington

The Tenacious Caregiver Award for NFP Administrator is given to an exceptional Network Partner leader who advocates for Nurse-Family Partnership in their community and supports high performance from their team.

Shulman Cordeira has led the RVNAhealth NFP program since right after it launched in 2020. Despite the challenges that came with starting up during the pandemic, the program has grown impressively in a short time thanks to her dedication and leadership. She has been a steadfast advocate for NFP– using her voice to testify for increased funding and working to build a strong community of support behind NFP in her community and across Connecticut.

“Your selection is a testament to your passion for NFP’s mission and values and your commitment to your team. We have been so impressed by your dedication to the program – growing your implementation in the face of the pandemic; building strong relationships across your community and state in support of the program; and tirelessly advocating for sustainable funding streams,” said Charlotte Min-Harris, President & CEO of the National Service Office for Nurse-Family Partnership.

Congratulations to the Entire RVNAhealth NFP Team!

Congratulations again to Laura, as well as the entire NFP team. The successful growth of the NFP program is a testament to their collective hard work. One of our NFP moms best summed up the impact their work, “[They have provided] amazing support to help guide me through this journey to motherhood. The peace of mind this program provides is outstanding.”

To learn more about our program, please visit the RVNAhealth Nurse-Family Partnership website.

Thank You for a Successful 2023 Spring Breakfast

At the RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast, the early bird was treated to quiche, coffee, convivial conversation, and possibly even a trip to Africa.  

It’s amazing what 400 people can accomplish before 9:00am on a Friday morning. In 90 minutes on April 28th, the annual RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast raised $138,000 to support our programs and mission. And there were a lot of happy prize winners!

With lots of spring in their step, area business professionals, physicians, veterans, RVNAhealth supporters and staff filled the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury at 7:30am.  Government officials from several communities were also in attendance, including the First Selectmen from Washington Depot (James L. Brinton), Bethel (Dan Carter), Warren (Gregory LaCava), Sherman (Don Lowe), Ridgefield (Rudy Marconi), Roxbury (Patrick Roy) as well as Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito, State Representative Farley Santos, and State Senator Julie Kushner.

A highlight of the morning was hearing firsthand the critical role RVNAhealth plays in the community, offering an enhanced continuum of care and meeting the needs of patients from birth to end-of-life.  Impact speaker, Anita Wolter McElroy, could not have been more powerful, as she shared her heartfelt story as a dedicated and loving daughter, trying to find the best of care for her aging parents. She found it in RVNAhealth, where her family’s medical, physical, and emotional needs are being met under one umbrella – always carefully organized, orchestrated, and well communicated. Referring to RVNAhealth as “the glue,” she shared, “It’s not just the services they offer, but how they provide those services.”

Many, many thanks to all of our event sponsors; our gracious table hosts and guests; the local businesses who donated more than 60 raffle items; our friends at Rodier Flowers; our special speaker, Anita Wolter McElroy; our brilliant auctioneer, Allison Stockel; our extraordinary event chairpersons, Andrea Gartner and Cathy Moore, and our fabulous committee who all brought an early Friday morning to life for RVNAhealth.

If you missed the Spring Breakfast and still want to show your support, please click here to make a donation.

Thank you to Deborah O’Brien for these wonderful photos!



Thank You to the Ridgefield Chorale!

RVNAhealth would like to extend a tremendous congratulations and thank you to the Ridgefield Chorale for their Sunday night Holiday Pops concert performance, hosted at the Ridgefield Playhouse!

With over 300 tickets sold — and on an appropriately snowy evening — attendees were treated to an array of holiday vocal and musical talent. Thanks to the virtuosity of the Chorale and the tremendous generosity of concert underwriters (the Kinne family, Blandine Lewine, Stephen and Patricia Ross, the Stockel family, and McLaughlin & Stern), the concert raised $5,500 for RVNAhealth’s Well-Child program. This money will fund much needed annual physicals and immunizations for uninsured children in our local area. Thank you for giving the gift of health to the children and families we serve!

The Ridgefield Chorale, led by Artistic Director, Daniela Sikora, includes four RVNAhealth employees: Jennifer Christensen, Nora Cascella, Tammy Strom, and Lynn Schneider. Thank you all for sharing your gift of holiday music with concert attendees and RVNAhealth’s Well-Child program!

Keri Linardi wins 2022 Judith Hriceniak Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership

Keri Linardi, RN, BSN, PHN, CHPCA, Chief Clinical Officer of RVNAhealth was awarded the 2022 Judith Hriceniak Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership on Thursday, November 3rd by the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home (CAHCH). The annual award, CAHCH’s highest honor, was presented at their annual conference in Hartford, and recognizes a nursing leader who is a visionary role model in the development and implementation of innovative projects that positively affect the ever-changing home care environment. Linardi was nominated by her RVNAhealth team.

Tracy Wodatch, President and CEO of CAHCH presented the award, sharing elements and excerpts from the nomination, which highlighted Linardi’s leadership and visionary thinking. Included in the nomination were the following words from Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA, RVNAhealth President and CEO, and 2020 winner of the same award, reflecting the organization’s admiration for Linardi:

Keri Linardi is a true visionary in the field of home health and hospice. Throughout her nursing leadership career and since joining RVNAhealth, Keri has challenged the status quo and set out to mentor and educate clinical management and staff. Her unwavering “patients over paperwork” mentality, ability to look at processes globally to maximize efficiencies, commitment to quality, and dedication to inspiring her staff by leading through example makes her an outstanding representative of this award.

Since joining RVNAhealth in 2018, Keri has greatly expanded the agency’s suite of services, including a palliative care program to support symptom management in all phases of disease progression, and a robust hospice program whose census has increased fivefold since its inception four years ago. Her accomplishments, set on the backdrop of a global pandemic and our merger with Bethel VNA and New Milford Visiting Nurse and Hospice, and you are reminded of what this nursing leader is capable of. Her knowledge of our industry and her leadership style has been transformative to our entire organization.

Linardi, who accepted the award alongside members of her family, expressed her appreciation. “I am extremely humbled to receive such a prestigious award, and to have been nominated by my team, without whom, none of our accomplishments here at RVNAhealth would be possible.  It is very fulfilling to work for an agency that embraces vision and change and a continuum of care. I am extremely lucky.”

The Judith Hriceniak Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership is named for Dr. Judith Hriceniak (1938-2000), who began her career as a registered nurse and director of Home Care Services at Bristol Hospital in Connecticut and went on to become an acclaimed champion and advocate of nursing education, serving as a mentor and role model, and receiving broad recognition for her achievements and contributions.

RVNAhealth Earns Top Workplaces Award for the 10th Time!

For the 10th time since 2011, RVNAhealth has earned a Top Workplaces award from Hearst Connecticut Media. The award is given to local companies that lead the way in workplace culture based on employee surveys. At RVNAhealth, the employees surveyed include clinical staff — nurses, rehabilitation therapists, and certified nursing assistants — as well as non-medical caregivers and administrative staff. RVNAhealth places in the mid-sized company category which includes companies with between 100 and 999 employees.

“2022 has been a year of gratitude for our employees who embody the mission and culture of our organization.  Following the pandemic and our 2020 merger with Bethel Visiting Nurse Association and New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice, I am proud to see the continued strength and dedication of our employees,” says Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA, President and CEO of RVNAhealth.  “Earning this award validates the strength of the RVNAhealth mission, and the commitment of our employees to the patients and communities we serve.  It is an honor to work alongside this talented team.”

The Top Workplaces designation was awarded to 59 local Connecticut companies this year. To be considered, a company must be located in Fairfield, Litchfield, or New Haven County, have at least 35 employees, and be nominated for the award by a current employee.  Company employees then complete a survey on their organization after which results are tabulated and prizes awarded.

RVNAhealth was also named a Hearst Connecticut Media Top Workplace in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, and 2021.  In addition to enjoying a mission-driven, rewarding workplace, RVNAhealth employees receive a full range of benefits including: medical and dental insurance, company-paid life insurance, a retirement plan with generous matching contributions, flexible work arrangements, training, professional development, and career paths. To learn more about joining the RVNAhealth family, visit  rvnahealth.org/careers/.

‘Twas the Season — Warm, Generous, Fun

One of the reasons RVNAhealth is a top workplace year after year is because of the friendships and partnerships we have — both within our organization, and with others. They enrich our days and our work, and are just plain fun. Continue reading

Happy Caregiver Appreciation Week 2021

This past week RVNAhealth took time to celebrate Caregiver Appreciation Week and thank our StayingWELL caregivers for their tireless efforts in helping our clients to remain safely and confidently in their homes.  Caregivers were treated to a drop-in reception and a pampering-themed gift bag in both our Ridgefield and New Milford offices.  The StayingWELL caregiving team — over 200 strong — is a group of award-winning individuals who bring pride and compassion to their work and clients. We appreciate and thank these individuals for their tremendous contributions each and every day!

2021 Excellence in Emergency Management Response

On Friday, October 22, RVNAhealth was awarded the 2021 Excellence in Emergency Management Response Award by the Connecticut Association of Healthcare at Home (CAHCH).  The official presentation took place at the annual CAHCH Conference (held virtually again this year) and recognizes an individual, team, or agency that has demonstrated great emergency preparedness and management response skills through an emergency.

RVNAhealth received this award for extraordinary efforts and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The onset and early months of the pandemic were a time of great unknowns and uncertainty, and the RVNAhealth Emergency Management team, led by President & CEO, Theresa Santoro and Chief Clinical Officer, Keri Linardi, employed vision, collaboration, and ingenuity to enable RVNAhealth to step forward from the moment the pandemic arrived in Connecticut. The RVNAhealth Emergency Management team, composed of directors across RVNAhealth departments — including clinical, rehabilitation, and personal caregiving, philanthropy, IT, human resources, intake, finance, and marketing — set the stage for an agency-wide commitment to serving our patients, while ensuring the health and safety of our team and their families.

Since mid-March 2020, RVNAhealth has not turned away a single COVID-19 patient.  We have served over 300 COVID-19 patients, partnered with over 20 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, and maintained an exceptionally low infection rate throughout. During this time, we have also served thousands of non-COVID patients, enabling them to get the care they needed, at home or at the RVNAhealth headquarters, without risk of infection. Beginning in January 2021, RVNAhealth — committed to the containment of the global pandemic — began administering COVID-19 vaccines as an official State of CT provider.

RVNAhealth is deeply grateful to CAHCH for their recognition of RVNAhealth’s work and response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

See RVNAhealth in action in the early days of the pandemic.