Free training program here in January and February
By Judy Reed
Would you like to make a big difference in someone’s life? Would you like to serve those in your own community? You can—and it doesn’t have to be more than one or two hours a week. But those two hours could mean a great deal to both families and individuals facing an end of life.
Spectrum Health Hospice will offer a five-week volunteer training session at Cedar Springs United Methodist Church beginning January 22. There will be five sessions, of three hours each—January 22, 29, February 5, 12 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Yvonne Elliot, Volunteer Coordinator for Spectrum Health Hospice and Palliative Care, said they are continuing to see a rapid growth in support needed for patients and families on the north end of Kent County and beyond into Montcalm County. “As we provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to these patients through our paid staff, we see a great need for additional volunteers to ensure that all our patients are offered the same level of support regardless of their location,” she explained. “Therefore we are taking our volunteer training on the road to the Cedar Springs area to encourage volunteers to join our program that are interested and willing to support patients and families in that geographic area.”
Volunteers play a vital role in supporting the patient by providing relief for the caregiver, friendly visits for the patient, music (both vocalists and instrumentalists needed), life story review, visiting dogs, haircuts, massage therapy and much more.
Local volunteer Betty Patterson, 80, of Sparta, gets great enjoyment from giving back to the people and families she visits. “I get more back than I give,” remarked Betty. “They are nice people who welcome you into their homes and lives. They are people in a hard place.”
Betty has been working with Spectrum Hospice for six years. During that time, she’s done a variety of things with the patients and families, depending on what they need. “I baked cupcakes with a lady who could barely hold a spoon,” she recalled. “I put the bowl in her lap and helped her stir.” Betty explained that she put chocolate frosting on the woman’s fingers when it was time to frost the cupcakes. “It was a chocolate mess all over,” she said with a laugh. “We were both covered in chocolate trying to frost those cupcakes. We had fun.”
There was a man that Betty visited who never spoke a word to her, but the family told her that he enjoyed gospel hymns. So she brought a hymnal and sang him songs out of it for an hour each time. She told him that if he ever wanted her to stop, all he had to do was blink his eyes, but he never did.
Another patient of Betty’s was a war bride from Germany. “The woman had a lot of pictures, so we took a trip down the Rhine,” said Betty. “I learned a lot.”
Betty read Winnie the Pooh to one patient. With another, she just held her hand. “In the training you learn how to just be present with somebody,” she explained.
Betty said that sometimes she just relieves a caregiver that needs to sleep, or needs to go out and do some shopping. They have often exhausted family. Other times a patient has no family.
Betty is also an 11th hour volunteer—one who will visit people who are right at the end of life’s journey. And she’s happy to do it. “I’m a good Episcopalian,” she explained. “It’s part of being a Christian—you give back.” She urged anyone thinking about volunteering to give it a shot. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me,” she said.
Yvonne spoke highly of Betty and the other volunteers they have. “We are always amazed at the wonderful community that we live in. It is humbling to see the amount of truly caring people who desire to use their time and talents to support our patients and their families. It is awesome to know that there are people interested in making a difference for people facing end of life. It is a very appreciated and rewarding volunteer opportunity.”
Spectrum Hospice supports patients in a wide geographic area (one hour distance from downtown Grand Rapids). Volunteers select the geographic area that they would like to serve. Additional volunteers are especially needed for the Northern Kent and Montcalm county area.
After completing training, most volunteers donate approximately one hour of their time per week. There are others who choose to donate more as their schedule allows.
If the winter training session will not work with your schedule, contact Yvonne to be placed on a notification list for future volunteer trainings. For more information or application materials please contact Yvonne Elliott at 616-391-4240 or via email Yvonne.firstname.lastname@example.org.