Hospice Volunteers Set Their Own Needs Aside

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CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIANS

Compassion, Respect, Integrity And The Desire To Help Define The Quality Of Hospice Volunteers

HOSPICE & HOSPITAL VOLUNTEERS are often the first point of contact for patients and visitors to a hospital. Their smiling faces help put us at ease as they guide us through the confusing journey that can be hospital visit or stay.

“As necessary when working with terminally ill patients, these volunteers set their own needs aside to ease the burden that patients and families often feel during end-of-life care,” said Mary Larson, a licensed clinical social worker and the volunteer coordinator at Hospice of St. Francis.

“They bring happiness, relief and peace and can be relied upon to deliver these gifts humbly and with appreciation for the opportunity to give back.”

The following hospice volunteers embody that caring attitude:

TIM BROWN

For Hospice of St. Francis patient Jean Hugh, volunteer Tim Brown is a gift from heaven. Brown takes Hugh to doctor and dental appointments and to the super market, as well as to Hugh’s favorite hangouts, such as Jo-Ann Fabrics, Sears and the shops in downtown Melbourne.

In two years, Brown has put 33,500 miles on his car, 27,000 of which have been miles volunteering for hospice, Meals on Wheels and Senior Transerve.

TIM BROWN, above right, of Hospice of St. Francis. “When Tim walked through our doors and offered to volunteer it was like we had won the volunteer lottery,” said Hospice of St. Francis volunteer coordinator Mary Larson. “When not with patients, he is at the office, helping organize supplies, tidying up and even washing windows.” Brown and his wife also weave mats made from plastic bags to create waterproof sleeping surfaces for the homeless vets. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

“When Tim walked through our doors and offered to volunteer it was like we had won the volunteer lottery,” said Hospice of St. Francis volunteer coordinator Mary Larson.

“When not with patients, he is at the office, helping organize supplies, tidying up and even washing windows. He responds with grace and adaptability when we call him for a last minute need, such as taking a patient to an unexpected medical appointment. He has been known to come in with less than 15 minutes’ notice to respond to a patient in need of a ride or a visit. Tim has been known to move furniture, fix a leaky faucet, and find a patient’s favorite candy–whatever the need. He works tirelessly not just for Hospice of St. Francis, but for multiple other charitable and service organizations in Brevard. Tim’s volunteer work is like a full time job. Last week alone, he put in 56 hours of volunteer time across all of the settings in which he volunteers.”

The Perfect Volunteer

Retired from the Coast Guard and a veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Brown connects easily with veterans, making him a perfect volunteer during the annual “stand-downs” that local veteran’s groups organize for homeless veterans. During these events, Brown helps transport the veterans, who are fed, provided with clean clothes and showers and connected with resources to help them get back on their feet.

Retired from the Coast Guard and a veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Brown connects easily with veterans, making him a perfect volunteer during the annual “stand-downs” that local veteran’s groups organize for homeless veterans. During these events, Brown helps transport the veterans, who are fed, provided with clean clothes and showers and connected with resources to help them get back on their feet.

Brown and his wife also weave mats made from plastic bags to create waterproof sleeping surfaces for the homeless vets. Cutting the bags into strips and weaving the pieces is indeed tedious work, but the Browns gain satisfaction that they are helping homeless vets. “We get about five strips per bag and we need about 2,500 bags to make one four-by-six mat where they can put their sleeping bag,” said Brown.

The couple also makes rosaries they include in the packages of clothing and food they collect for disaster victims overseas. They dig into their own pockets to buy the items and pay for the $100 it takes to mail each package.

Brown is as comfortable spoon-feeding a dementia patient as he is wheeling a wheelchair-bound patient to the beach to enjoy the scenery and chat the afternoon away.

Last year, Brown let his beard grow, which gives him an uncanny resemblance to Saint Nick. He has played the Santa part at battered women’s shelters, nursing homes and schools. The week of Christmas, he is a full-time Santa, visiting the many people he serves in his full red regalia.

“It’s a chance to give back and make someone’s life a little better,” said Brown.

VEDA MANLEY

Veda Manley considers her life as four stages of careers.

The Suntree resident’s professional life includes a stint in the Army in the late 60s. “I left as a captain when my military husband and I started our family,” said Manley.

VEDA MANLEY of VITAS Innovative Hospice Care. “She has demonstrated an ability to connect with each and every patient she has met,” said Susan Blakeslee, volunteer manager for VITAS. “Volunteers like Veda Manley make a special impact in the lives of patients during the most important time of their lives, the end of life.” (Space Coast Medicine & Healthy Living image)

When Manley’s husband retired from the military in 1990, the couple moved to Florida, where Manley launched her computer career and, in 1998, her academic career when she started teaching business courses as an adjunct professor at Brevard Community College and Columbia College at Patrick Air Force Base.

In 2009, Manley, retired from the academic world, embarked in her latest “career.”

“I consider my role as a volunteer for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care to be my fourth career,” she said.

“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and happened to meet the VITAS staff at a local senior center. I had always heard about the wonderful work hospice does so this seemed like a good fit. I have enjoyed every moment of it.”

‘Invaluable To Our Program’

As a respite care worker, Manley provides relief for caregivers of VITAS hospice patients. “They rarely get the opportunity to leave the house because they are devoted to caring for their loved ones,” said Manley.

Veda Manley also assists the hospice’s Bereavement Secretary with memorial events. One of Manley’s unforgettable moments happened when she presented a female Air Force veteran patient with a VITAS Certificate of Appreciation, part of the hospice’s efforts to recognize service men and women. “She and I discovered that our military service overlapped by six years,” said Manley. “I became her friendly visit volunteer and we enjoyed hours of reminiscing about our very similar experiences in the military at a time when women in the service were not accepted as they are now. The friendship we developed is one of the experiences I will cherish most.”

She also visits hospice patients at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and private residences. “I just spend time with them, listen to them, hold their hand or read to them while the caregiver takes a break,” she said.

Manley also assists the hospice’s Bereavement Secretary with memorial events.

One of Manley’s unforgettable moments happened when she presented a female Air Force veteran patient with a VITAS Certificate of Appreciation, part of the hospice’s efforts to recognize service men and women. “She and I discovered that our military service overlapped by six years,” said Manley.

“I became her friendly visit volunteer and we enjoyed hours of reminiscing about our very similar experiences in the military at a time when women in the service were not accepted as they are now. The friendship we developed is one of the experiences I will cherish most.”

Susan Blakeslee, volunteer manager for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, considers Manley a natural at volunteering. “She has demonstrated an ability to connect with each and every patient she has met,” she said.

“She is invaluable to our program because she is reliable, dependable, patient and very caring. Volunteers like Veda Manley make a special impact in the lives of patients during the most important time of their lives, the end of life.”

ROBIN VENEZIANO

Although chronic illness often plagues her, Robin Veneziano remains active as a volunteer for Wuesthoff Hospice and Palliative Care.

ROBIN VENEZIANO of Wuesthoff Hospice and Palliative Care. “The patients teach you to respect life,” said Veneziano, who both visits with patients and provides respite time for caregivers. “It is so sad when you lose them, but it so great to have known them. A lot of people push older people away, but these individuals have so much to offer.” (Image for Space Coast Medicine & Active Living)

“Every patient loves her and vice versa,” said hospice volunteer coordinator Trish Hendren. “She spends hours with each patient and makes their birthdays special. The nurses and the aides in the nursing home love it when she comes to visit. She’s got a Wuesthoff Hospice heart.”

Veneziano grew up with the volunteer’s ethos, serving in both children’s and veterans’ hospitals in her native Connecticut. When she moved to Melbourne, she continued her work.

She finds her hours with hospice to be a precious time. “The patients teach you to respect life,” said Veneziano, who both visits with patients and provides respite time for caregivers. “It is so sad when you lose them, but it so great to have known them. A lot of people push older people away, but these individuals have so much to offer.”

She finds her hours with hospice to be a precious time. “The patients teach you to respect life,” said Veneziano, who both visits with patients and provides respite time for caregivers. “It is so sad when you lose them, but it so great to have known them. A lot of people push older people away, but these individuals have so much to offer.”

In one day, Veneziano will visit with as many as six hospice patients, sitting with each of them for an hour or so or taking them out for a walk. She brings colored napkins for one patient who loves fashioning flowers out of them. A bag of candy is usually part of Veneziano’s travel kit.

“They love to get their sweets,” she said.

Lessons on life come in unexpected, wonderful ways. “I had a patient with no pictures on her wall, so I offered to bring her some,” said Veneziano. “She pointed to her window and said “All I need to do is look out the window. God changes my pictures everyday.”

VERONICA & KEN GRUNDMAN

Veronica Grundman was so impressed by the service Hospice of Health First provided to her father during his last days that when she retired from her job as executive secretary at Harris Corporation, Grundman went directly to the hospice to become a volunteer.

VERONICA & KEN GRUNDMAN of Heath First Hospice. “Ken and Veronica are both “go-to” volunteers for our program and represent what Hospice of Health First does well in the community,” said Valerie Kenworthy, volunteer coordinator for Hospice of Health First. “They are both great examples of being ambassadors of the hospice mission.” (Image for Space Coast Medicine & Active Living)

Volunteering at hospice has become a family affair at the Grundman household, since Veronica’s husband, Ken, also volunteers at Hospice of Health First since retiring as a materials analyst for Grumman. Even their miniature schnauzer puppy, Sasha, visits the William Childs Hospice House to cheer visitors.

Ken mans the front desk at the Hospice House and Sasha sometimes comes along. The dog is an instant smile magnet. “They see the dog and they light up and start telling dog stories,” said Ken Grundman. “It brightens their day.”

On Thanksgiving Day, the Grundmans cook dinner for the patients, families and staff at the William Childs Hospice House. They also prepare meals to be delivered to homebound hospice patients and their caregivers during the holiday. In the fall, the Satellite Beach residents devote their time to Camp Bright Star, the hospice’s camp for grieving children. They’ve also donated their time and talent to Hospice of Health First’s Arts in Medicine events.

Two days a week, Veronica helps at the hospice office. Before ankle surgery sidelined her for a bit, she would visit a local nursing home to give facials and polish nails of the hospice patients and other residents in the facility. Once her foot is back on track, she hopes to resume with that aspect of her hospice schedule.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Grundmans cook dinner for the patients, families and staff at the William Childs Hospice House. They also prepare meals to be delivered to homebound hospice patients and their caregivers during the holiday.

In the fall, the Satellite Beach residents devote their time to Camp Bright Star, the hospice’s camp for grieving children. They’ve also donated their time and talent to Hospice of Health First’s Arts in Medicine events.

“Ken and Veronica are both “go-to” volunteers for our program and represent what Hospice of Health First does well in the community,” said Valerie Kenworthy, volunteer coordinator for Hospice of Health First. “They are both great examples of being ambassadors of the hospice mission.”

ABOUT THE 2013 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN AWARDS

The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world. 

This year, more than 30 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.

“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.

All Humanitarian alumni are presented a specially commissioned medallion.

“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.

This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, MPAC ACO, Community Credit Union, Kindred Hospital, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, CentralFloridaMedicine.com and SpaceCoastDaily.com.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, or make a nomination or reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastMedicine@gmail.com.


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