Volunteers are an essential part of the hospice care team. The difference they make for our patients and their families is immeasurable. Whether it’s through direct care or administrative work behind the scenes, there are countless ways a hospice volunteer can help.
We are beyond grateful for the incredible people who volunteer their time and talents to make a positive difference in our patients’ lives. In honor of National Volunteer Month, we’d like to recognize just a few of them. We asked our volunteers to share what made them decide to be a hospice volunteer and what they find most rewarding about their experience.
Hospice of the Midwest Volunteer – We Honor Veterans Program
“On September 10, 2018, Mr. Kelly Gafkjen, Chaplain, Hospice of the Midwest, was a guest speaker at our Urbandale-Johnston Veterans of Foreign Wars monthly meeting. Kelly was on a mission seeking veterans to talk to veterans in local hospice care in their homes or hospice facilities. Many veterans in hospice would like to share their life and military experiences, but feel only a fellow veteran can associate with their feelings. At the conclusion of his presentation, Kelly asked that we consider volunteering, receive some minimal training, and agree to talk to veterans who are seeking fellow veterans to talk to. After our meeting concluded, a number of us discussed the information presented by Kelly, and three of us thought this was right in line with our VFW mission of “Veterans helping Veterans”. Contact was made with Kelley and the three of us started our training at the Fall Training Session September 27, 2018 , conducted by Kelley and Taylor Schneider. By the end of October we had finished our training and were waiting for our first assigned veteran. Under the guidance of Taylor I was introduced to my first veteran during a pinning ceremony on November, 30, 2018. Since then I have had the privilege of meeting and sharing both civilian and military experiences with 9 veterans of WW II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War eras. Every veteran, whether Army, Air Force, Navy or Marine, were all comrades and had their own unique and fascinating stories to tell. Some sad, some humorous, but all seemed willing to share with enthusiasm. I so much enjoyed visiting with these men, and I only hope they felt the same comradery that I felt while in their presence. I will miss these veterans but look forward to meeting my next comrade.”
Kendall and Ashley
Premier Hospice Volunteers
“Kendall and I (Ashley) love volunteering for Premier Hospice! We started in 2019 and volunteer weekly. Kendall states that he enjoys working in an office setting and learning new skills. I have been working with Kendall through the Medicaid Waiver program for almost 5 years. Seeing Kendall get to experience a work-type setting and learn new skills has been very rewarding. Nikki is a lot of fun to work with and always makes us feel appreciated!”
Arav and Anishka
Grane Hospice Volunteers
“We started volunteering for a local hospice during the pandemic (2020). We stumbled upon the opportunity from an email our mom received asking for donations of homemade casseroles and cards for hospice patients and their families. At first, it started by making occasional cards and casseroles, and then it turned into a routine every other week activity. This evolved into helping other hospices including including Grane Hospice. We have made homemade cards and even have given a virtual concert for the patients at Grane Hospice. We feel grateful to be able to give back to others in need even during a worldwide pandemic. It shows no matter what the circumstances, we can help others in our community. All this volunteer work has inspired us to create our own non-profit group called Rays of Sunshine, benefiting local hospices. We hope to expand and help even more local hospices in the future.”
CompassionCare Hospice Volunteer
“Coming from a family where both parents were in the medical field, I have had an interest in medicine ever since I can remember. In the pursuit of getting involved with medical volunteering opportunities, I wanted to commit to something that would provide meaningful experiences in vulnerable people’s lives, as well as my own. Although my patients’ physical bodies are failing them, they still have great wisdom to impart when given the chance to share and be heard. Many times, I leave the local assisted living facility with an enlightened perspective that I believe will serve me well in the career I am aspiring to have. From hearing first-person stories of World War II experiences to celebrating 96 years of living, there is always a window for valuable learning opportunities when I have the chance to spend time with these folks whom I now consider my friends.”
AT Home Care and Hospice Volunteer
“I Prayed about being a Hospice Volunteer and this is how the Lord is using My ability as a Hairdresser, to bring Comfort and Joy to the Patients. The most rewarding aspect is seeing the Happiness in the Faces of the Patients and their Families. Working with Them is a Blessing to Me.”
Virginia and Flynn
Grane Hospice Volunteers
“Being a hospice volunteer is about having a passion and love for helping others. No, I don’t physically help them but the most rewarding part about volunteering with my dog, Flynn, is seeing the joy it brings to residents. Residents look forward to our visits and remember us from week to week, allowing special connections to be made. I’m thankful for the opportunity Flynn and I have to give our time and make people smile.”
Kennedi and Ernest
Hospice of North Alabama Volunteers
Kennedi and Ernest – graduate level social work students with Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama – are student volunteers with Hospice of North Alabama in Huntsville. They sit with patients to provide caregiver respite. Hospice volunteer work allows students to garner a strong understanding of how social workers broker services within a healthcare agency as well as how to coordinate with various other healthcare and social service agencies.
Ernest states “I have learned that the process of dying and bereavement is as diverse as the families we serve. The first step of serving this population is engaging the patient and/or caregivers on what they want this time in their lives to be like—no two answers are the same.”
Along with the home environment, they also work with residential care communities to provide comfort and support. This gives them experience working with diverse community types and medical care needs.
Kennedi states “The things I’ve learned while interning at Hospice of North Alabama have prepared me to be a more caring and competent social worker. The compassion and kindness that HNA shows to the patients has been extended to me from the very beginning, and I’m so grateful. This has been the greatest experience of service I have committed myself to.” Ernest agrees, adding: “Knowing that you have provided support to a patient and/or their family in this transition period is rewarding. Establishing the trust that fosters comfort and emotional resiliency is an experience that will give volunteers a unique understanding of how health care best serves patients in all life stages.”
Premier Hospice Volunteer
“My internship and volunteering experience with Premier Hospice was meaningful and fulfilled my longstanding desire of working with end-of-life services to clients and their families.
I enjoyed working with a well-resourced team that included a chaplain, bereavement coordinator, social workers, liaisons, nurses, a doctor, and a volunteer coordinator. Each of them brought to bear their own particular skillset, and we all collaborated to make our clients’ end of life as comfortable and dignified as possible.
Besides teamwork, I enjoyed, I enjoyed visiting with my client once a week. My primary role was to support and strengthen the care providers so that they might function better.
I also enjoyed supporting other team members by making caring calls to clients or their families. It was amazing how much comfort and reassurance I could bring to them through the calling service. My participation in the online bereavement group was my gain in the understanding and knowledge of the process in group work, particularly for grieving families.
Through my time with Premier Hospice, I have grown to better appreciate the important role of leadership in the hospice setting. The internship was profitable to my professional growth and development.”
Premier Hospice Volunteer
“I volunteer with hospice to facilitate new transitions. In January 2020, I completed the training to become an End-of-Life Doula in New York City. In my move to Indianapolis, it was important for me to find a strong hospice program where I could be actively involved in the moments of life and death with others.
I volunteer because dying is an important cycle in every community. It is never easy to participate in the dying process, it pulls at every piece of your being. But there is nothing more rewarding than helping a patient or caregiver smile again while recalling a significant life moment. There is nothing more rewarding when the world feels burdensome, to help others find peace even for a single second.”
Thank You, Volunteers!
Thank you to these incredible individuals – and to all the volunteers on our team – for all you do for our patients and their families. You are amazing!
Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at Hospice of the Midwest? We’d love to have you on our team! Learn more and apply here.
Volunteers are an essential part of a hospice team, participating in roles from directly interacting with patients to helping with fundraising efforts. Hospice volunteers often describe their work as purposeful, validating, and meaningful. Hospice volunteers are at the heart of every hospice operation and are valued greatly.
How Hospice Volunteers Serve
This is a huge part of what hospice volunteers do. These tasks can include: visiting with patients, reading, taking walks, helping communicate for patients, bringing in therapeutic items, or supervising therapeutic visits. This list is not all-encompassing, and volunteers can do so much more for the patients they work with.
Comforting Family Members
Volunteers can do anything from listening to family members, sitting with them, or helping them with simple tasks like running errands or taking care of family pets. They are also able to help family members have some time alone by sitting with patients while family members take a nap or walk.
Fundraising and Administrative Work
Volunteers can also help hospice organizations by using their skills in the office with administrative duties. Fundraising efforts can include helping with mailings, contacting donors, facilitating events or writing thank-you letters.
Special Skills and Interests
In addition to everything listed above, each volunteer has their own set of skills or interests that could be of use to the hospice they are volunteering for. This could include skills such as: landscaping, musicians, barbers, notaries, sewing, etc. If you feel that your local hospice could benefit from a skill you enjoy, reach out!
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with Hospice of the Midwest, please reach out by contacting one of our offices near you today.When becoming a hospice volunteer, my expectations were that I would be reading, holding hands and sitting quietly with patients. I had no idea that I would build new friendships that would lead to events like taking patients on plane and motorcycle rides.While talking with Mark, we had a number of similar life experiences such as: Alaska (he had lived there, I have visited), motorcycle riding, and flying.I thought to myself, “How fun would it be for him to be able to do some of these things while there is still time?” After that, I connected with some of my friends and have been overwhelmed by their generosity and willingness to schedule these events so quickly. They have provided the red-carpet treatment in all cases.What makes these events so fun for these additional volunteers is Mark’s grateful heart. His trademark phrase was, “I’m so happy.”What a kind soul that I have been blessed to know.-Doug K., Hospice of the Midwest Volunteer
Volunteers are right at the heart of what we do here at Hospice of the Midwest. Thanks to amazing volunteers like Doug, our patients the receive unique, personal care they deserve. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a volunteer with Hospice of the Midwest, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.In Hospice, we deal with life and death… Whether we are clinicians or volunteers, it is vitally important to remember that when we put a smile on the face of our patients or their families, we bring something more than a service or our presence, and we bring HOPE! Not for a cure to the disease, but reprieve from worry, and a bit of joy when depression or anxiety is present. Our ‘Laughter Clinic’ was a success for Volunteers at Hospice of the Midwest~ MN! Volunteers were trained in different modes of laughter and how to use it with Hospice patients. Each shared funny stories they’ve experienced with patients or their own dying family members.\
– Nichole, Volunteer & Bereavement Coordinator
Pictured, are some of our staff and volunteers that participated in the clinic.I first met Pat in May of 2019. I visited Pat over 9 times this summer, my last visit just two days before he passed away on August 23, 2019.When we were first introduced, we shook hands, and I remarked how his full name sounded so distinguished; he chuckled, looked at me and said “just call me Pat.” From that day forward, he was “just Pat.”Most all of our visits involved discussions about his boyhood on the farm, enlisting in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, and starting his own family and farming after the war. Pat liked to talk about growing up on the farm with his brothers and sisters, and the times they would go swimming in the Skunk River on hot days. Pat told this story,“Sometimes when the water was high, you had to be really careful because you might step in a hole and go under or get your foot caught in a submerged tree branch. We all looked out for each other, but one day when my brothers and I were ‘dunking’ each other, I held my brother down under the water so he couldn’t come back up; boy was he squirming and kicking around. But you know, I wouldn’t let anybody drown, I was just fooling around with him, so I pulled him back up, and boy was he mad. He told my Dad what I had done.”When I visited Pat, I always wore my Veterans of Foreign Wars uniform shirt and service cap. It was on my third visit to Pat, I had just come through the door into a long hallway leading to a small lounging area with bookshelves and a sofa. There, sitting by himself, was Pat. He looked up, saw me, held up his arm and said in a loud voice, “You coming to see me?” I said, “Yes, I am,” as he waved me on back and said, “Have a seat.” We shook hands and I asked him how he was feeling today. He replied while laughing, “Feeling fine and still kicking.” We started visiting and it wasn’t too long before another Air Force veteran joined us. On a previous visit, I had brought two large hardcover books with colored photos of planes of WWII and the Korean War for Pat and me to look at. Don B., a Korean War pilot himself, saw the books and soon was looking over our backs and joining in our conversation. It was a very nice visit On another visit, we were talking about Pat’s farms in the area, and discussed the livestock, crops, and machinery on his farms. I told Pat that I also grew up on a farm raising chickens, hogs, beef and dairy cattle, oats, beans, corn, alfalfa and clover hay. I asked Pat what was the thing he liked best on the farm; he was quick to answer with a big smile, “Making and baling hay.” We both agreed that there wasn’t anything to compare to the sweet scent of a freshly cut field of Alfalfa or Red Clover. During one of our visits, I told Pat that I was an army veteran and had gotten drafted during the Vietnam War. Pat responded that when the Korean War broke out, he knew it was his patriotic duty to help his country, but he did not want to shoot or kill anybody, so he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Pat couldn’t remember where he was stationed at the time, but there was an incidence where he caught two men stealing supplies. When they wouldn’t stop, he had to make up his mind on what to do. He explained, “I really did not want to hurt anybody, but I had to do something, so I shot them in the legs.” Other than this one incident, Pat said he really enjoyed his time in the Air Force and would do it all over again.There was one visit where I got to sit with Pat during an hour-long music session. The young guitarist conducting the session would ask for requests from those in the room. Most of the songs were from the 40’s through the 70’s. Except for one song, where Pat dozed off, he sang and kept time with every song. He even got to beat time on a drum during one song.During our visits, (except for my last two visits due to his decline in health) we always shook hands when I first came and again on leaving, at which Pat would smile and say, ”See ya next time,” and wave goodbye.On my last visit to Pat, I met his daughter, Melanie, who had stayed overnight with Pat due to his recent health decline and worsening dementia. She said her mother and siblings were taking turns staying overnight with him. We talked about my visits, and she mentioned how Pat seemed to perk-up when they talked about the Air Force with him. Unfortunately, Pat passed away two days after this visit.When I attended Pat’s funeral, I wore my VFW uniform, and upon arriving, I expressed my condolences to Melanie as she introduced me to her sisters. They thanked me and expressed their appreciation for me coming that day. I then walked to Pat’s casket. Pat was in a new black suit and looked very sharp with the tri-folded American flag just to the left of his head. While there, Melanie came over and said they had a new U.S. Air Force logo pin and were wondering if it would be okay for it to be buried with Pat. I said I was sure Pat would be very proud to have that pin. Melanie returned with several members of her family, handed me the pin and asked me to put it on Pat. I put the pin on Pat’s left lapel, straightened it, stepped back, came to attention, and gave Air Force Veteran G. Patrick R. a final salute.
Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who took one of our patients on a beautiful, fall motorcycle ride!
As one of the volunteers put it, “I feel blessed to be able to serve & make someone’s day a bit brighter!”
Well, they definitely made this patient’s day brighter. Thank you to our volunteers and all you do!
Congratulations to Keisha Bailey, our Volunteer of the Year! She is being honored at the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Iowa Volunteer Recognition Ceremony! Thank you Keisha for all you do!
Hospice of the Midwest supports that our patients have the right to determine their own goals of care during the final stages of their illness. We focus on comfort, support, quality of life, and education. Hospice of the Midwest promotes a patient-centered approach.