From Rickshaws to Residents, a Volunteer Joins Valley VNA Staff

Kristi Branchford was introduced to Valley VNA in 2017 when she heard about their new rickshaws through the Cycling Without Age bike program for older adults. She was one of the first community volunteers to get trained as a rickshaw pilot, and immediately fell in love with her role as the giver of bike rides and happy smiles to VNA residents.  “It was the absolute shining star of my week. I loved it,” she said. At the time, she worked 50 to 70 hours per week at another job but refused to cede her rickshaw duties. “It grounded me and gave me energy and joy,” she said.

That joy is what propelled Kristi to further invest in Valley VNA as a volunteer bingo-caller. Then she received a ping on her phone in late 2021 about a job opening for the role of Valley VNA Senior Advisor. The senior advisor is the main contact for residents and families who are exploring options for independent senior apartments and assisted living homes. And once a new resident moves in, she remains available for family questions, compliments, and concerns. “The first person I called was Julie Roh, the Valley VNA volunteer coordinator and asked, “Should I do this? Should I apply for this job? I think I could be so good at this!” She did apply and happily started her new position in November 2021.

Three years earlier, Kristi had helped her own mother navigate senior services in the community so she could age safely in her own home. Even this arrangement brought with it an avalanche of questions, concerns, and paperwork. “I had come to know and love Valley VNA. I thought if I can help just one family navigate that journey, and help them know what to look for, it would feel so good. We pride ourselves on being a non-profit resource for the entire community.”

Kristi’s responsibilities include meeting with families at Valley VNA or in their homes when that’s more convenient. She hosts tours of the Valley VNA campus, helps residents and family members complete the necessary paperwork, and guides them when a resident’s care needs change. She is a co-facilitator of Memory Cafés in Neenah presented by the Fox Valley Memory Project. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her two young adult daughters, Hailey and Grace. Hailey is a biomedical engineer and works in cancer research at Stanford University. Grace attends UW-Oshkosh and has interests in business, sustainability, and social work.

Throughout all these changes, Kristi is still excited about the snow melt that means rickshaw season is coming. She will always volunteer as a pilot, “Because when I live in senior care, I know I’ll want a bike ride! The experiences I’ve had on the rickshaws will be on my heart forever.”