Glenna Godinsky | Movers & Shakers 2020–Community Builders

Glenna Godinsky’s mother spent the last four years of her life living with Godinsky, her husband, and their three kids after she developed Lewy Body dementia. Says Godinsky, "we learned by doing, and that skill set has helped me, daily, in my role at the library."

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Life Enrichment Liaison, Gail Borden Public Library District, Elgin, IL

DEGREE

BA, Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1988

FOLLOW

talesandtravelmemories (Activities Directors Facebook group)

Photo by Natalie Kiburg

 

Memorable Service

Glenna Godinsky’s mother spent the last four years of her life living with Godinsky, her husband, and their three kids after she developed Lewy Body dementia. Says Godinsky, "we learned by doing, and that skill set has helped me, daily, in my role at the library."

Since 2016, when Godinsky became life enrichment liaison at Gail Borden, she and her team of 22 volunteers have traveled to 23 locations across Elgin, IL, every month to bring rich programming to seniors and developmentally disabled youth and adults. In 2019, they provided 368 programs to 4,772 people—a value of $71,580—on a shoestring budget. Her volunteers donated 1,028 hours of time, worth an additional $26,123.

"Glenna designs, produces, and evaluates original and innovative programs incorporating art, music, history, travel, nature, and [more] to stimulate the intellectual, social, and emotional well-being of her patrons," says Tish Calhamer, Godinsky’s supervisor.

Godinsky also created "memory cafés"—welcoming places for people with dementia. The Elgin Memory Café meets the second Tuesday of every month at a local IHOP. Ordering is optional, so no one feels pressure to spend money to participate in crafts, activities, and conversation. "We offer an opportunity to forget about the diagnosis and live in the moment, creating new memories," Godinsky says. The Spanish-language Café de los Recuerdos takes place every other month and the family is invited, "because often the entire family shares in the care of the loved one living with dementia," she says.

Godinsky and her team trained restaurant staff in dementia awareness through videos at www.dementiafriendsusa.org. "This gave them the perspective and confidence to use proven communication methods with their restaurant guests," she says. Elgin has been designated a "dementia-friendly city"—one of only seven in Illinois—partly thanks to Godinsky’s efforts.

Godinsky shares her programs on her Facebook page, Activity Directors Idea Hub for Caregivers, and at conferences. Soon they’ll be on the library website too, "copyright free for anyone, anywhere," she says.

Her patrons aren’t just passive recipients of her work, either. Godinsky encourages people with dementia, some in long-term care facilities, to volunteer at the library. "You’d be surprised how delighted someone feels when they can give back," says nominator Miriam Lytle, division chief of community services and program development at Gail Borden.

Godinsky’s motivation to give back is personal as well as professional. "I honor my mom through the work I do every day, and in that way, she is still with me. She loved the library. She loved Elgin. I know she would be proud." 

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month