In the spirit of giving back

Suzi Lagina, a volunteer at SECU Family House, first noticed the house one day while she was out running. "I thought, 'Gee, I might be useful there,' " she recalls.

In the spirit of giving back click to enlarge Suzi Lagina
In the spirit of giving back click to enlarge For her volunteer work, Suzi Lagina expects nothing in return, except maybe a "thank you."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Written by Justin Cook for UNC Health Care

She moves through the SECU Family House with an open heart for the sick souls cradled in its walls. She lends her time to make life more comfortable for patients that are passing through. She lends an ear to those who, sometimes living on borrowed time, need someone to listen. Suzi Lagina expects nothing in return, except maybe a "thank you."

She wipes off the kitchen counter with a gentleness that extends beyond her expenditure of elbow grease. Folding laundry didn’t require any special training and she laughs as she revels in the job security that people’s messes create for her. Her nursing background makes it easier for her to relate to almost anyone. An avid runner, she understands healthy living, in fact she stumbled upon the SECU Family House one day when she was on a run. “I thought ‘Gee, I might be useful there.’ People have to make [the SECU Family House] their home. I just wondered what jobs were available ... I tend to take the ones no one else likes,” she says with a smile.

Lagina’s husband died years back, something that she doesn’t regularly disclose unless she is asked. The mystery makes her that much more intriguing. I didn’t probe as to why, but the circumstances of his passing were enough to galvanize her spirit of giving back and cement her deep-seated empathy of others caught in a struggle. Lagina seems to grasp patients’ and guests’ feelings of isolation and frustration when they are diagnosed with an illness, and the uncertainty of their own survival. That spirit of giving engages Lagina in multiple volunteer jobs that keep her busy during the week. Regularly you can find her visiting with patients at UNC Hospitals when she is not at Family House.

“In school they said you would have a calling in life. I thought someone would tap you on the shoulder and say ‘come, follow me, this is the path you are supposed to go down. It doesn’t really happen that way,” contends Lagina. But she agrees that you never know what will set you up for your current path. Chances should be taken and people should give of themselves to others.

For a while Lagina was happy with her calling as a nurse. Now she says she doesn’t miss some of the perks that come with a paying job and she is content spending much of her time volunteering. “What am I going to be called upon to do today? What can I do for others?” It’s that mindset that gets her through the week.

And it is in that spirit that patients and guests can bask at the SECU Family House.

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