Celebrate National Volunteer Appreciation Month With Treasure Coast Hospice
Volunteerism supports community-based organizations in many ways, providing individuals with opportunities to make a difference, connect with others, and learn new skills. For many, volunteering is a way to give back. For others, it’s a way to find purpose and meaning in life.
At Treasure Coast Hospice, many volunteers share their time and talents as a way to give back after a loved one has benefited from hospice care or grief counseling services.
“Volunteers are an integral part of the hospice team and their contributions are invaluable to the work we do each and every day to deliver care to patients and families in our community,” said Treasure Coast Hospice CEO Jackie Kendrick, CHPCA. “Their boundless compassion to serve others reflects the true meaning of having a “hospice heart.”
In recognition of National Volunteer Appreciation Month, Treasure Coast Hospice is spotlighting a few of the dedicated volunteers making a difference to patients and families in our community.
Sharon Brown - Treasured Pets
Sharon Brown began her volunteer experience as a patient visitor for Treasure Coast Hospice in 2007. When the role of coordinating volunteer for the Treasured Pets program became available in 2013, she jumped right in. A self-professed animal lover, Sharon understood how pets provided another way to establish relationships with patients.
“Not only are pets part of the family but they mean so much to someone’s spirits when things aren’t going well. It’s important to make sure that patients know that they, as well as their pets, are in good and loving hands.”
Today, Sharon is the heart and soul of Treasured Pets, a special program for hospice patients and their pets. Whether contacting families, coordinating the purchase of pet food, setting up grooming sessions, negotiating discounts with local veterinarians, or finding “Forever Homes” for pets left behind, she and the dedicated team of Treasured Pets volunteers are committed advocates for both patients and their furry companions.
Gladys Agricola – Administrative Support
Gladys Agricola began her career caring for newborns in the nursery at a Connecticut hospital. Years later, the experience she gained as a caregiver would help her care for her son and husband.
Gladys’ 40-year-old son Chas died of melanoma in 2007. Her husband Chick, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, passed away in 2016. Both loved ones received hospice care. “Treasure Coast Hospice took such good care of them. I became a volunteer because I wanted to give back.”
Since 2008, Gladys has been giving back. Like clockwork, she arrives at the Mayes Center in Stuart three days a week, ready and willing to help with any project needed. Gladys regularly greets guests at the reception area, organizes packages for veterans, and prepares mailings.
Her volunteer work has kept her busy and focused. “It feels good to help others and it’s been great therapy for me to stay busy, surrounded by people who appreciate the work I’m doing.”
Gladys’ kindness and charming wit have endeared her to staff and volunteers. She is also drawing on her experience caring for newborns once again, recently welcoming great grandson Jace into the world.
Tommye Anne Violette – Thrift Boutiques
For nearly 25 years, Tommye Violette has been volunteering at Treasure Coast Hospice’s Stuart Thrift Boutique. A retired nurse relocating from New Jersey, Tommye originally thought she would volunteer with patients. At the time, help was needed at the Thrift Boutique, so Tommye stepped right in, working the register, greeting customers, and enjoying every minute.
“I’ve met so many friends and so many interesting people through my volunteer work.”
For the past 10 years, Tommye’s role has been to price merchandise, specifically, the multitude of donated designer handbags.
She’s become an avid researcher, skilled at identifying knockoffs and pricing authentic bags. For nine of those years, Tommye’s late husband Bob joined her as a volunteer at the store. The former Marine and publishing executive restored watches and helped with electrical work. “Volunteering gave my husband great satisfaction. It was a big part of our life.”
Through her volunteer work, Tommye also learned how hospice supports patients and families facing serious illness. “Even though I was a nurse and had cared for my dad years ago, I wasn’t fully aware of the benefits of hospice care.” Today, Tommye not only encourages people to volunteer but also to seek hospice care earlier.
Dennis Diamond - Veterans Program/Patient Visitor
Dennis Diamond wanted to give back to his community in a meaningful way.
In 2013, after Dennis and his wife Linda attended a volunteer training, he became involved with Treasure Coast Hospice’s Veterans Program. A U.S. Army veteran, Dennis is well suited for the role and considers it an honor to be able to visit veteran patients to recognize them for their service.
During a recognition ceremony, veterans are presented with a certificate of appreciation, a special pin and a patriotic blanket, handmade by volunteers. “I see how honored family members are that I visited their loved one to acknowledge and thank them for their service to our country.”
Dennis takes great care to add a personal touch to each of the veteran ceremonies he handles. “Finding a way to make a personal connection makes vets feel special about their military experience.” It often prompts veterans to share memories or tell a long forgotten story about their time in the service.
Having found his volunteer niche, Dennis has conducted more than 400 veteran pinnings over the last eight years. Even when a patient is resting quietly, he has witnessed the subtle facial expressions – a lifted brow or the flicker of eyelids - of a veteran responding to the ceremony’s Final Salute. “Families are so appreciative of the Veterans Program. It is such a rewarding experience to be able to provide comfort to patients and their family members.”
Wanda Renz - Memory Bears
Wanda Renz once raised her hand in answer to the question, “Who sews?” More than 250 Memory Bears later, and she is still sewing. A volunteer for more than seven years, Wanda has made hundreds of Memory Bears for patients’ families. Each Memory Bear, a work of art that brings joyous life to the clothing of a loved one, can take up to eight hours to create. With painstaking detail, Wanda uses items from the clothing - buttons, labels, belts – to personalize each bear to the patient. She handcrafts the bear’s eyes to match the loved one and incorporates details that the family has provided to be sure every aspect is a perfect memory for them.
Upon presentation of a Memory Bear, family members often shed tears of joy, warmly embracing the bear as though they are hugging their loved one.
Wanda’s dedication to creating Memory Bears is making a difference by providing cherished memories and bringing comfort to families for years to come.
“Without the help of our volunteers, Treasure Coast Hospice could not affect the journey of those we care for in such a compelling way,” said Kendrick. “We deeply appreciate the contributions of all of our volunteers.”
To learn more about the many volunteer opportunities at Treasure Coast Hospice, visit TreasureHealth.org.
Hold a hand. Welcome visitors. Walk a dog. Quilt a blanket. Honor a veteran. Write notes of encouragement. Make phone calls. Prepare mailings. Assist with fundraising events. Organize donations. Touch a heart. Make a difference.