By Katrina Stevens
Volunteer Services Manager

One of the things I have missed the most during COVID is seeing people’s faces! Individuals’ facial expressions, smiles, emotions and reactions are so important when working together. We can learn so much from watching a person’s face, and we’ve missed out on this for a long time.

Volunteers at Hospice of the Panhandle are wonderful, giving, caring, funny, warm and expressive people to work with, but we’ve rarely been able to experience this since 2020.

National Volunteer Week

April 17-23 was National Volunteer Week, and the theme was “Volunteer Faces of Caring.” I’m here to tell you that we have 150-plus of the best volunteers any nonprofit could ask for. They sit with patients, they run errands, they work in our marketing and medical records departments and so much more! While reflecting on pictures of their faces – a feature that we put on our agency’s Facebook page during Volunteer Week – I smiled because I am so blessed to be able to manage this group of caring individuals. These faces have cared for our community, staff, patients and families over the last year in some different ways. They’ve mailed hundreds of cards to families after deaths of loved ones, packed more than 15,000 goodies and treats to give to our community partners to show we care and need them in our work. Their faces, through masks and goggles, have provided a caring presence, smiles, confidence and compassion to many patient, families and visitors at our inpatient facility. This spring, they finally are starting to return to homes of our patients and families just like in pre-pandemic times.

The amazing work of our volunteers

Here are a couple of other examples of the care these wonderful faces provide:

During the holidays, Santa’s face provided holiday magic via window visits to our patients who were unable to receive visitors last Christmas. One patient smiled from ear to ear. With tears of joy when Santa appeared, the patient’s day was made brighter!

A lonely patient at our inpatient facility receives almost daily volunteer visits. The patient and the volunteer laugh, watch westerns and have a personal connection with each other.

A mother whose daughter, our patient, is receiving care away from her home wants and needs to visit her. She is feeling disconnected and frightened for her daughter since she is unable to provide care herself in her home anymore. She was used to visiting several times a week and currently cannot. But a compassionate volunteer offers transportation so the mother can travel from her home to the daughter’s facility. The volunteer then takes the mother back to her home.

Volunteers are back!

Our volunteer faces are reemerging in the community in homes, nursing homes and our inpatient facility. These wonderful individuals once again connect and share. And I’m happy to report that we have new volunteers. And in spring 2022, I’m seeing what they actually look like. I’m so pleased that we are now sending them back out to spread their joy and presence to encourage, share, laugh, talk, cry and engage with those who are in need. Many new volunteers have not yet been able to visit with a patient and are so excited to receive an assignment and begin the journey. Just recently, I sent a volunteer to provide compassionate presence to a dying patient. She was so eager to complete this as this is what drew her to our agency – she’s been trained and waiting for a year! It’s time for her – and all of our volunteers – to share our time, presence and faces with our once community again.

Katrina Stevens is the volunteer services manager at Hospice of the Panhandle. For more information about hospice volunteering, go to hospiceotp.org/volunteer or call 304-264-0406.