Archive for the ‘volunteering’ category

I stepped away from wisdom

May 18, 2016

by Jim Young, LDHH-H volunteer

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Volunteer Jim Young

Maybe some of you remember me. But maybe this is the first time you have read anything from this site. The first blog I read from HPCCR brought tears to my eyes, and since then I have cried many times from the words that were written by so many wonderful people – words of honesty, love, and conviction.

Hospice moments are filled with raw and honest emotion. As someone who has stood in those moments countless times, being there can be both rewarding and frustrating. But to be honest, the most frustrating part of hospice for me was the frustration of stepping back – or in my case stepping away from – this wonderful organization.

I volunteered with HPCCR for six years, and in August of last year, my personal plate got rather full. I personally felt I could not commit one hundred percent to a patient assignment, so I stepped away. And in doing so, I stepped away from wisdom.

Wisdom has always inspired my thoughts and my actions, and it was wisdom that always led me to writing about my feelings about hospice. When I left HPCCR, the words left too. This is the first time I have been able to put words to paper, to express the feelings of my heart.

Lately I’ve been feeling that there can be light in death just as in death there can be life.

Allow me to explain. Life in death can mean acceptance to a hopeless outcome, clarity to confusion. Life in death is moving forward, carrying that loved one in your heart.

Light in death is when life simply transitions from a physical presence to a spiritual one. Light in death is finding the peace you are so desperately searching for, the beacon calling you to embrace the joy and the sadness of life meeting death.

I think that is why I’m being called back– to embrace the joy and sadness once again. It was God who led me to HPCCR in the first place, and it is God leading me back there now.

If that isn’t divine wisdom, then tell me what is.

Comfort without being asked

April 19, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

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Ollie

I met the sweetest volunteer the other week. He had truly soul-searching eyes and an uncanny ability to know exactly what patients needed from him, including how he could comfort them, without being asked.

His name was Ollie and he was an eight-year old Labradoodle.

National Volunteer Week was last week and HPCCR made special efforts to recognize the amazing men and women who offer their time and love to the individuals (and their families) under our care. But what about the animals who do the same thing for our organization? It’s definitely harder to show our appreciation. But I think they know; they must certainly feel the intense adoration coming their way from everyone who meets them.

Pet therapy dogs are brilliant. Ollie knows the difference between when he can “be a dog” when it’s time to “go to work”. His owner, Robin, in fact uses those very words (“It’s time to go to work, Ollie!”) when she’s ready to load up and head to Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, where you can find them each Wednesday afternoon.

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Ollie and his owner, Robin

Robin told me some amazing stories. But one of them really resonated with me and almost brought me to tears. She told me about the time when, after a patient had died, the family (who had particularly loved Ollie) requested that he participate in the ceremonial procession of walking behind the body to the waiting vehicle outside. This family had a long tradition of waving as they said goodbye and they all wanted to wave one last time to their loved one. As the vehicle drove away, all of the family members were waving and crying. Then they turned and looked down (in shock) to see Ollie lift his paw as well. Robin was not surprised. “He totally gets it. You don’t have to say anything.”

Ollie seems to sense when and where the patients need him. He’s been known to jump up on beds but he can also tell when lying on the floor next to them is the best way to offer comfort. He’s always calm, always full of love, and he never fails to bring a smile to at least one face in the room.

I watched Ollie in action that day. We entered the room and, I tell you, the entire mood shifted. Faces lit up, questions were asked about him, and stories were offered up about their own dogs. There was hardly a second when a hand was not on Ollie’s head or stroking his unbelievably soft ears.

And when it was time to go, he knew that too. He moved on to the next room, ready to offer exactly the kind of comfort they needed. Without being asked.

For more information about pet therapy or volunteering with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, visit our website, hpccr.org or call us at 704.375.0100.

 

 

The Sparkle Lady

January 7, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

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Robyn Adams, the Sparkle Lady (Photo courtesy of NBC Charlotte)

Sometimes we have great stories about our staff and the extraordinary lengths they go to on behalf of patients. Sometimes we have great stories about our volunteers who constantly make a difference in the lives of our patients. This time we have a great story about a volunteer’s daughter who is making the world a better place in the chemo room.

Frank DeLuise is one of our volunteers. His daughter, Robyn, has been visiting women who are receiving chemotherapy at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte. She comes in, dressed to the nines, wearing a bright pink wig, and carrying a basket full of sparkly jewelry. She lets the women choose a bracelet, ring, or other small piece; just a little trinket to brighten what is inarguably an extremely tough day.

Here’s the caveat: Robyn is battling stage four breast cancer herself.

Robyn, a 46-year old single mother of three, was diagnosed last summer. What they thought was a simple cyst turned out to be breast cancer that had spread to her liver and bones. She immediately started treatment.

At first Robyn would wear sweatpants and comfortable clothes. But then she had a change in attitude. And that’s when she became the Sparkle Lady. She says that she decided to, “come dressed up and wear my jewelry and sparkle because cancer can’t take that away. It can take a lot of things away but it can’t take that away.”

The best part? Local Charlotte TV station, WCNC, heard about Robyn and what she was doing. They were so inspired by her compassion and strength they decided to help the cause. They contacted the owners of a jewelry store company, Towne & Reese, who were similarly blown away by Robyn’s efforts. Towne & Reese donated over 150 sparkly items to fill the basket.

So now if you walk into the chemo treatment room at Levine Cancer Institute, you’ll likely see glitter and shine coming from the earlobes, wrists, and fingers of women who may even have a smile on their lips, despite the challenges they face. And that’s how you’ll know the Sparkle Lady has come to call.

 

You can read more about Robyn’s story on the WCNC web page and on the gofundme page created by Robyn’s father (and our volunteer) Frank DeLuise.

A thousand extra miles

December 16, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Shauntel

Shauntel, our amazing volunteer

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we have amazing people who volunteer with HPCCR. When we need people to help out, they step up. And sometimes they go the extra mile. Or better yet. Sometimes they go a thousand extra miles.

Like Shauntel. Shauntel lost her father a few years ago. Before he died, though, he was under hospice care. Shauntel told me that her family’s experience with hospice was amazing; they felt overwhelmingly loved and supported.

So four years ago, she decided to give back. She volunteered to help hospice families over Thanksgiving by taking them a meal. That first Thanksgiving without her dad was incredibly hard but being able to do something meaningful for families whose journey she intimately understood was truly a rewarding gift. She has continued this tradition, bringing joy every Thanksgiving to some very deserving families.

This year, Shauntel was assigned to bring a meal for Mrs. N, whose husband is under our care. When she spoke with Mrs. N for the first time, Shauntel asked her if she would prefer the “fixings” for a meal or an already prepared meal. Mrs. N asked Shauntel to just bring canned goods because the only items she had in her home that would allow her to heat food were a hot plate, a toaster, and an electric skillet. She had no microwave or oven or stove.

Shauntel was heartbroken. She’d never thought about how easy it is to prepare a meal in her own home; she’d taken it for granted that she can cook for her family whenever she wants to with whatever appliances are in her kitchen. But Mrs. N, who was already caring for her ailing husband, had to work even harder than most to simply put food on the table. She knew at that moment that God had put her in Mrs. N’s life for a reason.

At this point, Shauntel flew into action. She contacted her church to see what additional resources and help she could find. Turns out someone knew a guy who fixes appliances and he was able to provide a used stove. They were able to also procure a microwave and George Forman grill. Shauntel called Mrs. N and told her to clear some space — A Thanksgiving miracle was about to happen.

Before Thanksgiving, Shauntel and her crew (including her daughter and a few other children who had an amazing example set for them that day) arrived at Mrs. N’s house with their bounty. Mrs. N was just overwhelmed with gratitude. She hugged Shauntel and cried, and after they plugged in the stove, she turned it on and put her hand over one of the burners. She said she was just glad to feel some warmth in the house. That’s because they don’t have central heat either.

Not only did Shauntel bring the appliances, but she also helped clean Mrs. N’s house. And she has since been back, bringing socks and blankets and other items to make Mrs. N and her husband more comfortable.

Shauntel tells me that she is the one who feels grateful. She was so humbled by Mrs. N’s situation and was deeply thankful to make such a huge difference in the lives of two people who, by all accounts, do not have it easy. She knows how blessed she is; this was her simple effort to pass some of those blessings on.

And that right there, folks, is what grace looks like. Shauntel represents all that is good about this “giving” season. She offered up love and service and received great joy in return.

Shauntel went a thousand extra miles that day. Her generous spirit will likely take her many more.

If you want to volunteer to make a meal for a family this holiday season, please call 704.375.0100 and ask to speak to someone in volunteer services.

 

Become a hospice volunteer!

October 29, 2015

by Alia King, HPCCR PRN Volunteer Manager

Mr. Borland

Mr. Borland still loves fishing!

How many people can say going fishing is in their job description as a volunteer?

John Sukits can! He faithfully visits Mr. Borland weekly, and sometimes those visits include fishing! Each week comes with a new activity: a light walk in the park, a milkshake or meal, window shopping at a sporting goods or hardware store, and most recently, fishing. Mr. Borland looks forward to John’s visit every week and verifies with his nurse and social worker that John will be there.

This is just one example of how our volunteers bring joy to the lives of our patients and receive joy in return. And even though not all of our patients can get out like Mr. Borland can, most still thoroughly enjoy visits from volunteers. Whether it’s watching an old movie together, listening to music (or even singing along) or simply holding a patient’s hand, volunteering is a gift for our patients. Not to mention it’s comforting for our families and wonderfully fulfilling for our volunteers.

Right now, we have a huge need for volunteers who can join our Volunteer team! No matter where you live in our service area, we promise we can use you. We especially need volunteers in Union, Cabarrus, Lincoln, Gaston, and Iredell counties. Call today (704.375.0100) to get started or visit our website to complete an application. No fishing experience necessary.

Preparing for Soup (on Sunday)

October 23, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

CCDS bowlsHave you been loving our frosty mornings lately? I have. I love everything about the fall — being able to wear shorts with sweatshirts, breaking out the tall boots, seeing the leaves change. And of course there’s the food. Specifically, the pumpkin. In fact, the only things I haven’t seen yet with pumpkin in it are cheeseburgers. But I’m not holding my breath.

And it’s finally time to eat warm soup again! Which is why (I think) our wonderful helpers at Charlotte Country Day School wait until this time of year to create bowls for our annual Soup on Sunday event.

handsEach year students, faculty, staff, and parents all show up at the Hance Fine Arts Center to make bowls for our unique soup-tasting event. The clay is donated each year by Jinny Hargrave who owns Carolina Clay Connection, a pottery center in Charlotte that serves the needs of potters, clay artists, school art programs, sculptors, and anyone who is interested in working in clay. Jinny, along with local potter Kay Ethridge and Country Day School art instructor Meredith Green, provide help and advice to all of the volunteer potters who donate their pieces to Soup on Sunday. We have these three women to thank for the multitude of bowls on display at our event each year.  Between their own creations and their assistance with the Country Day students, parents, and faculty, they pretty much keep the pottery tables full.

close upI’ve gone to Country Day for the pottery-making extravaganza for the past three years and I think this one was the most well-attended yet. The concentration in the art room was fierce and the creativity was flowing. Parents and kids of all ages created their own personal masterpieces and then knowingly gave them up for the greater good of hospice care. Because of this generous community, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region can count on yet another successful Soup on Sunday. And that means our patients can count on continued exceptional care.

Right now, these lovingly-made bowls are still in their infant stages. Next they will get fired in the kiln and then they’ll be beautifully glazed. Finished, they’ll wait to be put on display. And then some time will pass. Soon enough, though, this beautiful fall will inevitably turn into another cold winter, and then it will be time for Soup on Sunday (on January 31), where we will once again welcome the delicious, piping hot soups with open bowls. Except for the pumpkin cheeseburger soup. I think I’m out on that one.

Thanks to all of the CCDS faculty, staff, students, and parents who made bowls for Soup on Sunday! Please come find your bowl on January 31 at the Philip L. Van Every Culinary Arts Center on the campus of CPCC. See you there!

 

 

Tickling the insides

September 24, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Irene Deberry_Sardis Oaks

Irene Deberry

It doesn’t matter how old you are, there’s just something about a birthday cupcake that will tickle your insides and make you smile.  Oh sure, there are people who profess to hate their birthdays.  But I simply can’t believe that the act of blowing out a candle that sits atop a delicious and perfectly proportioned tiny cake could make someone actually mad.

And because at HPCCR we know the simple joy that a cupcake can bring on one’s natal anniversary, we try to make sure our patients feel loved on their day.  Case in point: back in July, our volunteer department was able to procure a dozen cupcakes to celebrate the birthday of Irene Deberry, one of our patients living at a skilled nursing facility.  Irene was turning 90, a huge milestone by anyone’s account, and her family was coming into town to help her celebrate.  Because Irene is a woman definitely worth celebrating.

Irene was a fiercely independent, southern woman who lived alone until she fell and broke her arm in March last year.  Her injury required surgery and while they were inserting the breathing tube for the general anesthesia, they discovered a mass in her throat.  A cancer diagnosis soon followed, along with some worsening symptoms of dementia.  Knowing that she could no longer live at home, Irene was moved to Sardis Oaks skilled nursing facility, where she currently resides.

In March, after having quickly diagnosed Irene’s cancer, the doctors gave her a feeding tube so that she wouldn’t have to swallow food.  But that didn’t seem to sit well with Irene — she lost weight and was not happy.  She was so hungry that she ended up taking food off of the nurse’s cart.  After conversations with Irene’s family and her doctors, it was agreed that they would remove the feeding tube and let her eat solid food.

Irene hasn’t looked back.  She’s gained some weight back and is certainly happier.  And when presented with cupcakes by her hospice team on the day before her birthday, she did not hesitate.  Nor did she decline them the next day when her family arrived and more cupcakes were passed around.

Those cupcakes were a celebration of Irene’s birthday, sure.  But they were more than that.  They were a celebration of her life and her ability to still enjoy it, despite dementia and a terminal illness.  It was a celebration of making her wishes known so that she could enjoy tiny, delicious cakes to acknowledge the day she was born.  And when you look at that face, you just know that those cupcakes tickled her insides all the way down.

Special thanks to the HPCCR volunteer department (especially Crystal England) as well as Dan Morris, Irene’s social worker and Jonnie Waldo, Irene’s loving companionship volunteer.  They had a party for Irene at Sardis Oaks the day before her birthday, complete with said cupcakes, flowers, and cards.  Irene could certainly feel the love!