Hamilton Hospice looking for next generation of volunteers

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In the front, from left, are volunteers Maudie Baker, Midge Richards and Lesley Hohol. In the back is Kenneth Morgan, volunteer and bereavement coordinator
Hamilton Hospice volunteers provide service on their own schedules. In the front, from left, are volunteers Maudie Baker, Midge Richards and Lesley Hohol. In the back is Kenneth Morgan, volunteer and bereavement coordinator

DALTON, Ga.– After 25 years of volunteering, Hamilton Hospice volunteers Midge Richards, 89, and Maudie Baker, 93, are looking to pass the torch on to a younger generation, though they’re still volunteering with the organization.

Lesley Hohol is one volunteer who has accepted the challenge. She has already volunteered with the homebound ministry at her church.

Hohol, 25, is a student at the University of Georgia. After graduating, she plans to continue her education to become a physician assistant.

“I volunteer because it’s part of the human experience,” says Hohol. “It’s humbling. I feel guilty because I take away more than I can give a lot of times.”

Richards agrees. “We’ve had a lot of heartaches, but the rewards outweigh the heartaches,” she says. “I get a good feeling having a part in helping someone to die with dignity.”

Baker says that sometimes when they’re out, they’ll run into family members of former patients. “They give us a big hug and tell us how much we’re appreciated,” she says.

Richards and Baker used to go into homes and sit with patients so family members could leave the home to do errands. Now, the two volunteers limit their visits to nursing homes.

Before volunteering with Hamilton Hospice, Richards and Baker had volunteered with their church. They wanted to expand their activities and were looking for something meaningful, yet flexible, which led them to Hamilton Hospice.

“There are a lot of things to be done,” says Kenneth Morgan, volunteer and bereavement coordinator. “Each volunteer brings a different gift or talent to the hospice program that blesses others. There is a degree of flexibility, when and how often; however we are looking for kindhearted individuals willing to give.”

Morgan says Hamilton Hospice needs volunteers for direct patient contact or for other supporting positions. The Hamilton Hospice program’s goal is to connect passionate people with others who need a simple act of kindness. These acts of kindness may include friendly visits, letter writing, sharing hobbies, picking up groceries or other manageable activities.

Volunteers who visit patients often participate in what Morgan calls “comfort conversations.”

“These conversations allow patients to talk about their personal stories or journey as it relates to their end-of-life closure. The volunteers are there to listen and facilitate those times of personal reflection, and if possible, connect the patient with the resources needed to accomplish this,” Morgan says.

These resources, Morgan says, could be coordinating conversation with family or friends, writing notes or letters to family or friends, journaling a patient’s thoughts or simply listening to their story. “I guess one of the most important things that happens during these conversations is that patients have an opportunity to verbally process their inner most thoughts before closing the door on this life,” he says. “Many times, these conversations connect to a patient’s love of life, which might include music, arts or even their careers.”

Morgan says he wants to see Hamilton Hospice volunteers take what Baker and Richards have accomplished and continue it. “Lesley is a good example of taking that mantle and carrying the volunteer vision from one generation to the next.”

Hohol says that volunteering with Hamilton Hospice helps her see a different side of health care and the aging process. “Hospice isn’t about dying,” she says. “It’s about living.”

To volunteer or for more information contact: Kenneth Morgan: kmorgan@hhcs.org or call 706.278.2848.