Fishing on Chute Pond.

It was about 2001, and a young woman was attending Neenah High School. She had just gotten her first car, and her parents required that she get a part-time job to pay for gas and insurance. Her two best friends worked as evening caregivers at a place called Valley VNA, so she applied there and got a job working in the kitchen over the dinner hour. That summer, she took a full-time job in housekeeping and started to get the know the residents better. In fact, a few “adopted her” and she felt like she had joined an entirely new family. Her next career move, while still in high school, was to become an activities assistant in the life enrichment department. She helped residents with their creative arts and crafts pursuits and even asked her dad to cut out wooden leaf patterns on his scroll saw for residents to decorate. The older adults at Valley VNA eagerly helped her with high school history assignments, too, like providing real-life accounts of the Great Depression or fighting in WWII.

NFL Hall of Famer, Jerry Kramer, at Lessons from the Gridiron, Lambeau Field.

After high school graduation, she pursued a marketing degree at Fox Valley Technical College and kept her job in life enrichment at Valley VNA. She was still unsure about whether to take a hands-on caregiving job, but one day she stepped up to help another colleague with a resident. “This is actually fun,” she thought. “I can do this.” She immediately signed up to complete Valley VNA’s in-house caregiver training. Meanwhile, she continued her marketing studies and even became a certified massage therapist—all while working at Valley VNA.

Who is this young woman, who would go on to become a caregiving team leader, then operations manager for Valley VNA, and who is now a certified administrator? It’s Angela Franz, the Valley VNA Administrator for Independent & Assisted Living since 2014. Angela still steps up to do hands-on caregiving during busy or difficult times, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Her colleagues are just as precious to her as the residents, and she strives to stay attuned to their day-to-day challenges as she manages the business and human sides of operating a long-term care community alongside Theresa Pichelmeyer, Valley VNA’s executive director.

Volunteering at The Ronald McDonald House.

Angela’s own family now includes her husband Chris, an accountant, and their three-year-old son Vincent. She is a huge Wisconsin sports fan and closely follows the Packers, Badgers, Brewers and Bucks. She loves to travel, go boating on Lake Winnebago, swim in her parents’ pool with Vincent, and enjoy her husband’s good cooking.

Valley VNA is still her family, too. “I never left because I couldn’t leave them; the residents, I mean. I would fall in love with someone, and I’d think, ‘I can’t leave until she passes. I just can’t leave her.’ Then someone else would touch my heart, and it was never-ending. I could never leave. And I am still here, 20 years later, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”