By Ashley Horst, Fundraising & Marketing Coordinator

It all started with a group of innovative volunteers.

In 1980 the congregation of Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg was challenged to find the unmet needs in the community and come up with solutions for them. The group decided that one unmet need was a lack of good end-of-life care. People were dying in pain and not having had important conversations with their loved ones.  People were missing out on having quality time with their families and families were unguided and struggling to care for their loved ones.

This was the start of Hospice of Martinsburg, which would later become Hospice of the Panhandle. At that time, the organization was entirely run by volunteers. Twelve volunteers completed the very first hospice volunteer training. These volunteers would sit with dying patients and their families, comforting them and helping them have important conversations about the care they wanted (or didn’t want). In that first year, 10 people were cared for by Hospice of Martinsburg.

Fast forward 40 years.

Hospice of Martinsburg is now Hospice of the Panhandle, serving more than 1,000 patients and families each year in Berkeley, Hampshire, Jefferson and Morgan County. We now have more than 130 staff and our very own inpatient facility. What has not changed though is the dedication, compassion and innovation of our volunteers—now more than 205 strong!

It is National Volunteer Week and we would be remiss if we did not recognize our amazing volunteers. Over the last 40 years, we’ve had more than 900 volunteers! From the volunteers who gave us our start to the many volunteers who work with patients and keep our offices running on a daily basis, we are grateful for each and every one of them.

Over the years, volunteers have touched every aspect of the care we provide. Volunteers have worked with patients, providing them with a listening ear, a friendly smile and a hand to hold. Volunteers have worked behind the scenes putting together informational folders, stuffing letters for mailings, filing medical records, making phone calls and so much more. They have worked tirelessly on events—fundraisers, friendraisers, Day of Caring, health fairs, county fairs, parades and the list goes on. And they have made dreams come true—motorcycle, convertible and air plane rides, cakes and photography for weddings, trips to ball games, concerts and anniversary parties, special meals and walks down memory lane with someone recording life stories for future generations. It seems that there’s nothing that our volunteers can’t do and haven’t done!

“Every day I am given the chance to enrich our patients’ and their families’ lives by assigning a volunteer to help with a need they might have, complete a project for an end-of-life goal, or sit with a dying patient.  The needs can range from immediate response, to an added layer for the patient’s social life or a much needed break for their caregiver.  I love knowing that we have a dedicated core of volunteers who will say yes to anything we need no matter the request.  Our volunteers love giving back and secretly I think they revel in the more challenging situations—it gives them a chance to show off their super hero skills, ” said Katrina Stevens, volunteer services manager at Hospice of the Panhandle.

Each year our dedicated volunteers give more than 10,000 hours of their time to help hospice patients and their families and our staff. Most volunteers find their passion for hospice volunteering after experiencing hospice care with a loved one. Others have a desire to give back to their community in a way that makes a tangible difference in the lives of others when they need help the most. And yet others have a special passion for working with people and their families during this very important and meaningful time in their lives.

Passionate volunteers make us volunteer strong!

Ask any of our volunteers and they’ll gladly share what made them decide to become a hospice volunteer. Some volunteers recently shared their passion for volunteering:

“I volunteer because being with someone during their final moments is an honor,” said hospice volunteer Tracey Guilliams.

“I volunteer for hospice because while the family of a hospice patient suffers along with the family, if I can smile and connect with the family, and brighten their dark day, I am rewarded with that feeling,” said volunteer Elaine Neufeld.

“I volunteer because I saw firsthand the difference Hospice made in my mom’s last few weeks of life. I wanted to be a part of that for others in some way,” said volunteer Dana Spiker.

You’ll see more of our volunteers share their passion for volunteering on our Facebook page this week.

No matter what brought each of our volunteers to us, we are grateful for the selfless way in which they serve our patients and their families and help our staff and other volunteers. We would not exist today if it weren’t for the volunteers in our past and who are present with us now.

More information about Hospice of the Panhandle

Hospice of the Panhandle is a not-for-profit healthcare provider that offers expert, compassionate care and volunteer support for people experiencing life’s final months. The goal of hospice care is to help people experience life’s final months more fully by surrounding them with a circle of support that includes their family caregivers, doctors, nurses, personal care aides, social workers, chaplains, grief counselors and volunteers. This team brings physical, emotional and spiritual relief so that a hospice patient and their family can live more fully despite the many challenges of illness.

For more information about how you can be surrounded by the compassionate care of Hospice of the Panhandle, call 304-264-0406 or go to hospiceotp.org.