Seniors Helping Seniors PCACS sparks positivity through community connections

Written by Bruce Lindner. Posted in Community News & People in the News, Featured

Published on April 01, 2020 with No Comments

Olivia Vandevelde is getting stronger, but still faces health challenges after being diagnosed at 17 with heart failure. The PCACS team is working to assist Olivia, her mother Holly and her whole family.

At PCACS, our team is always looking for more ways to make an impact on the clients that we serve by going above and beyond just our program offerings. Our Section 8 Housing Director Valerie Martinez has been leading an effort to help a family that is facing health challenges.

Martinez has been connecting community members, businesses and nonprofits to lend a helping hand to client Holly Vandevelde and her family. Vandevelde’s daughter, Olivia, was recently diagnosed with heart failure at 17.

Martinez said the main goal now is to help Holly and her family obtain reliable transportation as they are struggling to get to doctors’ appointments.

The stress on a family living with chronic illness is overwhelming without having to worry about transportation,” she said.

Donations are being sought to help the family obtain a vehicle. NeighborLink Porter County is collecting funds online via or in person at Repurpose Place, 102 Beverly Drive in Chesterton. Also, the Boys & Girls Club of South Haven is in the process of planning a fund-raiser.

Martinez first launched her efforts around the holiday season.

Holly reached out to me in December after her daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with heart failure and was at Advocate Children’s Hospital,” Martinez said. “Holly is a single mother of four working as a waitress, and she was concerned with providing a Christmas for her children during this health crisis.”

Martinez connected with Toys for Tots Coordinator Jim Atkinson and arranged to pick up two bags of presents for Vandevelde’s children as well as obtained a special BTS doll donated by Barnes & Noble in Valparaiso.

Northwest Indiana Community Action donated grocery gift cards to assist during this stressful time and new beds were donated by Indiana Furniture. The team members went out of their way to find beds for these clients,” Martinez said. “Chick-fil-A donated kids’ meals during the holiday season to also help Holly and her family over this rough hump.”

Olivia’s diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy with left ventricle hypertrophy continues to affect the family in the new year.

She’s doing better. When we took her in to have her gallbladder removed, she had congestive heart failure,” Vandevelde said. “It’s a miracle that she is still alive. They were telling me she wasn’t going to make it. It was so scary.”

Even the doctor said she is excited to see what I do with my life because from what she saw, I shouldn’t be here right now,” Olivia added.

Today, additional organizations and individuals are jumping in to address various needs and bring some joy to the family during this difficult time. The South Haven Lions Club has donated a wheelchair and shower seat for Olivia, blankets and pillows have been provided by the Conn family and Carol Hammond through PCACS and a wish concert to a BTS show is being granted by Do It for the Love. Vincent Barango donated dressers and delivered them to the family’s apartment. The Morris Performing Arts Center has gifted “Lion King” tickets to the family as well.

The assistance has meant a lot to us. I have no family, no brothers or sisters. Valerie is like family to us, and we can’t believe she wants to help us so much. We’re not used to that,” Holly said.

The PCACS team has also donated a washer and dryer and NWI Heating and Air Solutions helped with installation.

John Lopez happily volunteered to transport these items to Holly’s house,” Martinez said. “The company’s mission is to help our community in ways that can be really life-changing.”

The Indiana Children’s Wish Fund has granted a wish for one week in Florida for the family to enjoy time at Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and Give Kids the World Village.

When I was little, I always watched the Disney channel and still do. I love the shows and have always wanted to go to Disney,” Olivia said.

Martinez continues to connect with community members, establishing a network of resources for clients in need. She is helping plan an 18th birthday party for Olivia in September with a donated “Dream Cake” from Icing Smiles and is putting together activities and day excursions for the family through Bounce Children’s Foundation.

Hearing Holly’s story really brought back memories for me after my own child was diagnosed with a serious illness and my only form of transportation broke down in the midst of driving to Indianapolis,” Martinez said. “I decided then and there to help families in similar situations as much as I could.

PCACS wants to bring back to our community the old-time values of asking people: ‘How can I help?’ We want to fill our community with support and compassion. Sometimes, the only thing that a person needs is someone to say, ‘I am here with you through this,’ to make all of the difference in the world.”

Holly said the family is so appreciative of all of the assistance and is mindful of how health challenges can hit anybody at any time.

You hear about other people with cancer and heart problems, but you never really think it is going to hit home and happen to you. And it did. She was a healthy 9-pound baby. Where did this come from? We still don’t know,” Holly said. “(Before her diagnosis,) she was swollen and always tired. She couldn’t climb the stairs without getting out of breath.

I never thought at 17 she would have rare congestive heart failure. You have to stay strong and hope for a positive outcome.”

To donate luggage for the family’s wish trip or an additional bed, contact Martinez at 219-464-9904 or


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About Bruce Lindner

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle.  Bruce Lindner has worked in the not-for-profit world for more than 25 years and has been executive director of Porter County Aging and Community Services for five. A native of the Region, he was raised in Portage and he graduated from Valparaiso University. You can call him at 219-464-9736 or e-mail at

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