As numerous charities, organizations, and volunteers across the United States celebrated National Volunteer Week last week, Sampson County’s Community Home Care and Hospice joined in, recognizing their own dedicated and caring group of volunteers.
Sharon Keith, volunteer coordinator for Community Home Care and Hospice, shared that, while the volunteers expect nothing in return for their time and compassion, she made sure that each one of them received a planner to help them keep track of their appointments and meetings, a framed volunteer certificate, and a special thank you note.
“We wanted to recognize them for their service. They give of their time for free; they receive no pay. It’s a free service but an important one. Even though they don’t get paid, they are certainly not overlooked. They make the biggest difference,” said Keith.
We have the nurses who do their jobs but often the volunteers do what the nurses don’t have time to do. They help fill in the gaps,” continued Keith, “and I make sure to tell them thank you all the time.”
One of Community Home Care’s loyal volunteers is Deborah Ellis who has been giving of her time and energy for over five years.
“I talk to clients on the phone, I have done visits, I sing songs to them and pray for them,” said Ellis of her volunteer work. “I’ve spent the day with a lady’s daughter so that the lady could run errands.”
An ordained minister and a hospital chaplain, volunteer work is part of Ellis’ calling. “I just have a love for people and I love the work. I enjoy having conversations with the patients if they are able, but I also love talking to the family which you sometimes talk to more than the patients. I try to encourage the family.”
While the volunteer work is certainly rewarding, Ellis’s advice to those thinking about volunteering is “make sure you have a love for the work” and “be able to deal with a patient dying.”
“Working in the hospitals and all, I’m used to it (losing patients). If I talked with them, I do miss some of their conversation after they are gone, but I can’t fall apart. If I do that, I can’t help other people, so I have to try and focus on the next person.”
Agreeing that losing a patient is the hardest part of the job, fellow volunteer Linda Clark, who has only been volunteering for about six months, remains passionate about helping hospice patients, a passion that results from her own challenges in life.
“I’m a breast cancer survivor,” shared Clark. “I know it’s a trying experience and I just want to do my part to help others and their their families who are dealing with cancer. Hospice is such a great service. They do so much for patients at the end.”
Clark’s volunteer work includes making check-in calls every Wednesday. “I call weekly and check to see how they’re doing, if they need anything, and then I carry on a conversation with them, visit with them, for a while. They look forward to Wednesdays and so do I.”
Sometimes those conversations “give me chill bumps,” noted Clark.
“I remember a patient answering the phone and I asked her how she was doing. She said she was doing good because she had been here longer than the doctors expected,” Clark continued. “It those things, hearing a little about how the patients are doing, that is the best part of the work.”
“I just love it and am doing my part. That’s all I want to do,” added Clark.
Like Clark, Gayle Jenkins has been volunteering a little over six months and also enjoys making weekly phone calls to patients and helping in the Community Home Care and Hospice office.
“I’m a people person and I like to help people,” said Jenkins. “I enjoy taking time with someone who really needs you, that’s the best.”
Jenkins’ mother battled cancer and she draws on that experience to help others in similar situations. “Because my mother had breast cancer, I can understand what others are going through. I can connect with them in that way. “
As Community Home Care and Hospice looks for more volunteers, Clark’s advice is “if you really care about people, then you should give a try,” adding that she always treats patients the way she would want her mother treated.
“I wish more people could or would volunteer,” Clark added. “It means a lot, giving people a little care, especially at the end.”
“We are always look for more,” noted Keith. “You can never have too many volunteers.”
Community Home Care offers free training to those interested in becoming a volunteer. Volunteer opportunities include direct care (visits, calls, games, errands), clerical (filing, mailings, flyers), as needed (sitting, yeard work, errands), tuck-in (weekly calls), bereavement (visits, calls, mailings), and professional (hairstylists, massage therapists).
If you are interested in volunteering with Community Home Care and Hospice, please contact Sharon Keith at 910-592-7322.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.