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Coworkers donate leave time to help cancer victim

November 09, 1999

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

Photo by JOE CROCETTA / Staff Photographer


When Kelli Roser was diagnosed with cancer in September, she was scared.

Not just for her own well-being, but for her two young children she's raising by herself while working as a certified geriatric nursing assistant.

Roser, 33, didn't have enough sick time to cover all the days she's had to miss because of her illness.

But thanks to her coworkers at Avalon Manor Health Care Center, Roser's paychecks are still coming in.

Twenty-two employees at the nursing home north of Hagerstown have donated 464 hours of their leave time to Roser.

Her coworkers have helped out in other ways, by taking her to doctors' appointments, sending her cards, flowers and even preparing her meals.

"They've just been so great. It's so unbelievable," said Roser, of Hagerstown.

Roser started working at Avalon Manor in 1984, shortly after she graduated from South Hagerstown High School.

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She's been there ever since, with the exception of about a year. She had moved to Texas, but came back after getting homesick.

When she got ill earlier this year, it started with flu-like symptoms. When the symptoms kept recurring, her doctor did more tests in July. They revealed she had two tumors, one in a kidney and one in her pancreas.

She underwent surgery Sept. 23 to remove one of her two kidneys and part of her pancreas. Doctors found the tumors to be cancerous, she said.

She will return to her job in the medical records department next Tuesday on a part-time basis. She still has to undergo more tests and possibly more treatment, she said.

Her children, who are 4 and 5, don't really understand what's been happening to their mother, she said.

When Gail Snyder, the nursing home's activities director, learned about Roser's plight, she thought that donating sick leave would be a good way to help.

"It had to be a scary time for Kelli. We're not just her coworkers. We care about her," said Snyder, of Hagerstown.

Snyder got permission for other employees to donate some of their sick leave from the nursing home's administrators at Magnolia Management Inc. of Hagerstown.

It was a first for Magnolia, which owns and operates six nursing homes in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

"We were pleased to be able to do this for Kelli," said Magnolia Vice President Peter E. Perini Sr.

The word went out to the nursing home's 175 employees at a staff meeting and 22 stepped forward. Most gave a day or two. One person gave two weeks.

"I was just impressed with everybody who came and gave," said Sharon Harshman, who does the payroll at Avalon and donated a couple of days herself.

Roser's closest coworker, Lorraine Miller, drove her to many medical appointments.

Amy Hose, who works in rehabilitation, helped arrange a month's worth of prepared meals through her church, Apostolic Church of Maryland in Clear Spring.

"It's almost like we're another family," Roser said.

Snyder said she was reminded of the story of geese. When one drops out of flying formation, two others stay nearby until the bird dies or can fly again.

"We're in a caring profession and we're caring people here," Snyder said.

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