The Volunteer Experience-Inspire
“I hope this will inspire others to see how rewarding it is to be in service of others.”
When asked why she volunteers for Unity, volunteer Mary said, “It began as a pay back. It was too late for [Unity] to assist my beloved grandmother before she passed, but I had heard great things of [the] organization. Since her passing, [Unity has] been there for my father and family- and the amazing patients with whom I have had the pleasure of companion sitting. What a great way to be in service to others! We are all children of God and that binds us together as family. What a gift, to assist in any way, to ensure the quality of life and dignity of the dying process are preserved for anyone who chooses it.”
Mary said that she really enjoys people, and has found that many of the patients with hospice need extra support for themselves and their families. “This was a good fit for me to help in whatever way I could that would directly or indirectly help them.” Mary said that she first started volunteering with Unity in the kitchen at the Jack and Engrid Meng Residence Facility. “I wasn’t sure I was capable of being so close to death after losing my grandmother. I hadn’t had much other experience with death of a beloved, before losing her, as we were SO close.” Mary has since expanded her volunteer role to include companion sitting with patients and families.
I asked Mary what she gets out of her volunteer experience. She said, “Thinking of patients [that I had for a longer time] brings memories of comfort and joy. Each of them had some story to tell; background that I became familiar with, and now they are at rest.” Mary said she adds these patients to her prayer list. “Knowing that their energy is around for anyone in their family is a peaceful feeling.”
Mary shared that she tells people all the time about the volunteer opportunities at Unity. “I let them know it is not invasive of their time. [Unity is] flexible, and there are SO many different opportunities for anyone that wants to give some of their time. The rewards are so great! We have an opportunity to change lives.” Mary said that lives changed are those that are sick and those caring for the sick. She said those two groups of people mostly just need support and resources to find answers.
The Jack and Engrid Meng Hospice Residence located in De Pere, WI.
Mary said she is still able to fit volunteering into her schedule, even though she only ever has a couple of hours at a time to spare. “I work full time; but the flexibility of the various opportunities [Unity has] makes it easy to pick and choose what works for my work/life balance.”
Mary said she would consider pursuing the volunteer opportunity of vigil sitting once her schedule is a little more open. “I think that could be a very moving and powerful way to assist those transitioning; but my schedule doesn’t allow that type of service at this time. Mary also stated that she’s not sure that she’s prepared to sit vigil yet at this time in her own grieving process. Unity wants to match the volunteer to the opportunity that works best for them. If a volunteer does not feel comfortable or ready to accept an opportunity or responsibility, the volunteer coordinators will absolutely respect and understand those circumstances. If or when Mary ever feels comfortable sitting vigil, and her schedule allows it, the volunteer coordinators will happily provide her with the training and opportunity to do so. That is just one of the ways in which Unity supports its volunteers and patients.
Volunteers are also supported through extra, elective training opportunities. Mary recalled a time the volunteer department offered an Alzheimer’s course. “The video used, and the explanation of how the brain/feelings are like book cases really did impress me! It helped a lot and will also help in the future when we can return to visiting those at Wyndemere again.”
Mary shared her most memorable interaction with a patient. “Debra* was my first person to sit with. We played Rummy and talked of her good old days. She would always say “that’s the way the cookie crumbles,” and tell stories of her life. I actually got to spend a number of years with her before she passed away. I still use that saying all the time when I am stressed.”
*Patient’s name has been changed.
This blog post was shared by Leah S., Volunteer Coordinator at Unity Hospice.
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