Forty years ago, Bay de Noc Hospice – now known as OSF Hospice – became the first hospice in the state of Michigan. For every one of those years, volunteers have played a vital role in helping the organization make a special impact on the Upper Peninsula community.
Those volunteers would tell you they received at least as much as they gave to the patients and families they served.
Hospice is home-based care for people with a terminal illness who have a life expectancy of six months or less. It can be a trying time for patients and their families, so hospice care helps them get the most out of the time they have together.
Serving others will change your life
Donna LaPorte, proprietor of Jim’s Dari Kreme in Escanaba, was there at the beginning of Michigan’s first hospice. She was at the first training session for volunteers held in early 1979 and served as a volunteer for decades.
She can clearly recall details from decades of service – the briefest moments of grace and empathy that left their imprint on her soul.
“The best thing I ever did in my life was join hospice,” Donna said. “You become so involved with the families, it’s like you’re part of that family. There’s a love that’s hard to explain, but it’s there.
“Hospice has enriched my life. The people that I’ve met enriched my life so much. I don’t remember people’s names or anything, but I remember them and the things that they taught me. And I get kind of emotional when I think of all those beautiful people.”
Through her years of volunteering, Donna developed deep bonds with patients and family members, some of whom she keeps in contact with today.
She leans on the lessons she learned from them to help her find peace, even as she deals with her own uncertain future.
“I’ve got cancer now, and I’m going to be going into hospice soon,” Donna said. “They taught me so much that I’m so grateful for. I know everything will be OK.”
Donna has suggested volunteering for hospice to a lot of people over the years.
“You’ll never regret it,” she said. “I mean, it’s something that is just…it’s a part of your life you’ll never regret doing. If you ever want to feel God’s presence, it’s to be with a person dying. It’s beautiful. I get weepy-eyed, but I’ve cried with my people. I’ve laughed with them. I’ll just never forget them. It takes a special person to volunteer, but there are a lot of special people out there.”
How can you make an impact? Take your pick.
Volunteers are vital to delivering hospice care. Volunteers choose the role they’re most comfortable with.
The list of ways you can positively impact the lives of people when they truly need it is a long one. Activities include:
- Reading, praying or just sitting and talking with patients
- Running errands
- Buying groceries
- Staying with a patient so their caregiver can go to appointments
- Clerical duties
- Tracking data
- Assisting with memorial services
- Helping at foundation events or health fairs
- Sending out cards and letters to families in the bereavement program
- Shoveling snow or plowing sidewalks and driveways
- Doing yard work
Volunteers can also put their compassion to use to help with the No One Dies Alone program. Created in 2009, OSF Home Care Services partners with local health care facilities to provide trained volunteers for situations when someone is in the last hours of life and does not wish to be alone. The program serves hospice and non-hospice patients who are dying with no family or friends available.
To learn how to become a volunteer, please call (800) 673-5288.