By Katrina Stevens
Volunteer Services Manager
Over the past year, so much of what we have defined as “normal” has changed. We changed every way we interact with human beings—how we communicate, fellowship, work, see and touch each other. Giving back to society also was affected as many nonprofit organizations switched to a work-from-home model, which meant volunteers were not needed on site. Some organizations needed volunteers to learn new roles quickly, some cut volunteer positions in half or to a few and some shuttered volunteer jobs altogether. Out of caution and concern for our volunteers, Hospice of the Panhandle paused volunteer services with the exception of a few at home jobs—phone calls to patients, letter-writing, craft projects and, oh yes, who could forget mask-making!
Thankfully, we have a team of crafting volunteers who were able to come together in record time and produce more than 1,400 masks for our staff in three weeks! While they couldn’t be together in person, they certainly were in spirit and their determination to protect our staff was amazing! We are so grateful!
During the initial shutdown, we also were able to continue honoring our veteran patients with the help of two amazing staff members, Navy veterans Walt DeWalt and Wayne Clark. Veteran services were the first volunteers to return to work again in May 2020. Within 30 minutes of being up and running, our veteran volunteers were meeting with patients.
To our staff’s delight, our office volunteers and front desk greeters for our inpatient facility returned in July. We have been gaining momentum since then and, just a few weeks ago, we started sending volunteers out to visit with patients once again—just in time for National Volunteer Month!
Our volunteers always enjoy helping in so many capacities. They are always willing to try new things. Volunteers deliver birthday balloons and cards to our patients, especially those who may not have family to celebrate with them. One particular birthday visit that started out with balloon and card delivery quickly evolved into a volunteer eating birthday cake, singing happy birthday to the patient and sharing memories of previous birthday gatherings. While we were told this patient probably wouldn’t want to engage with the volunteer, the visit quickly turned into a small celebration. The volunteer reminisced with this patient about her many happy years. And the “party” brought encouragement, smiles, and laughter to the patient and changed her whole day!
So while 2020 wasn’t our usual volunteer year, it was still an amazing time of team spirit, connection and giving back in creative and inventive ways. Volunteers wrote letters, made phone calls, created certificates of appreciation, did crafts, and sent cards and e-mails. Following safety protocols, they made “window visits” to patients. Collectively, our volunteer team gave 5,883 hours in 2020 and connected with 185 patients. Those numbers are incredible considering that our volunteer services were essentially shut down for more than half of the year.
We are glad to be back, connecting with our patients and families once again in 2021.
Hospice of the Panhandle uses more than 200 volunteers to support hospice patients and their families, staff and the organization as a whole. Volunteer opportunities range from sitting with patients to organizational tasks and helping with fundraising. For more information about volunteering with Hospice of the Panhandle, go to hospiceotp.org/volunteer.
The next Hospice volunteer training will be held on Fridays, May 7 and 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hospice of the Panhandle’s office in Kearneysville. For more information or to register for this training, contact Katrina Stevens at (304) 264-0406, ext. 1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katrina Stevens is the volunteer services manager at Hospice of the Panhandle. Her passion for working in hospice care grows out of her own experience with Hospice caring for a loved one and has developed into a lifelong passion for connecting volunteers to the right opportunity for them within hospice care. She has worked for Hospice of the Panhandle since 2010.