Amazing Hospice Volunteers Are Patient, Caring, Understanding, Loving and Respectful

By  //  October 25, 2016

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ABOVE VIDEO: Compassion, respect, integrity and the desire to help define the qualities of hospice volunteers.

“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.”


As an Army veteran, Cheryl Thornton has a special place in her heart for the brave men and women who keep our freedom.

hospice-volunteers-cheryl-thornton-poster-580Thus, Thornton’s most cherished moments as a volunteer for Hospice of St. Francis happen with the organization’s Honor Veterans Program, which celebrates the service and life of veterans who are hospice patients.

“In this role, she interviews veterans, then recognizes them in front of their loved ones with a veteran pinning ceremony,” said volunteer coordinator Vicky Hamilton.

Thornton presents the honorees with a pin and hat representing their branch of service, plus a quilt to keep them cozy. Families and friends gather, as many as 60 or 70 of them, to share in the moving ceremony.

“It is really heartfelt,” said Thornton, who began her association with hospice last year after seeing how well hospice had cared for one of her dear friends.

“Cheryl wasted no time after retiring to get involved in giving back to the community,” added Hamilton.

The Indiana native worked her way up the NASA ranks from secretary up to television producer, awards program manager and STEM education lead.

In addition to the veterans’ events, Thornton is also involved with hospice as a care center greeter at the Edward M. Poe Hospice Care Center in Titusville and in office support.

“Cheryl’s people skills shine in her caring interaction with the visitors,” said Hamilton.

The hospice taps onto Thornton’s outstanding computer and organizational skills, depending on her for special human resources and patient tracking projects.

Hospice-of-St.-Francis-300Thornton is also a dedicated volunteer at First United Methodist Church of Port St. John, where she is one of a team of five ladies who provide caregiving to a low-income 83-year-old woman suffering from early dementia.

“We are her family, because she has no other family,” said Thornton.

Several days a week, Thornton visits the woman, cleaning, cooking and helping around the house so she can remain independent as long as possible.

Cheryl is not the only Thornton who volunteers. Husband Lewis is a volunteer dog walker at the SPCA of Brevard.

Thornton represents all that is great about the volunteer spirit.

“Cheryl brings a positive energy to her service,” said Hamilton.

“I find it gratifying to work with newly retired people who are eager to utilize their life experiences to impact our community in meaningful ways.”


Pam Lee is grateful for the opportunity to volunteer for Hospice of Health First. As Lee sees it, it is her way to pay back for the kindness and care her loved ones experienced from hospice.

hospice-volunteers-lee-poster-580-1“Both my mom and dad and my partner received hospice care,” said Lee.

“Hospice was able to care for my mom for a month. It gave me precious time with her.”

Lee estimates that she volunteers as much as 25 hours a week for hospice.

The kindhearted Palm Bay resident is also caring at her home for her best friend from high school, who is diabetic and has serious mobility and other health issues.

She also has a soft spot for animals, sharing her house with Snuggle Bear, her bichon/poodle, and nine cats, most of whom she rescued while they were days old.

With hospice, Lee is the go-to woman for any job needed. Need to help a patient with transportation? Call on Lee. Need an errand run? You know Lee’s number. Have to have medications delivered to patients at their home, the hospice house or at Cape Canaveral Hospital? Lee will take care of it, with a smile, as she also does home visits, goes shopping for patients and provides respite time for caregivers.

HOSPICE-HEALTH-FIRST-180“I’ve been on the caregiving side and know how hard it is,” she said. She generously gives a gift of time to make someone’s day a bit more bearable. 

A real estate agent with Welcome Home Realty, Lee settled in Brevard in 1982, after living all around the country, thanks to her father, a contract engineer.

She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Florida Tech.  She has scaled back on her real estate work to accommodate helping her best friend and maintain her service to Hospice of Health First.

“Hospice is an organization I feel very strongly about,” said Lee. “If I have been able to do some kindness, I’m very happy.”


Marilou Chadurjian has experienced so many losses in her life that when she first applied to become a volunteer at Wuesthoff Hospice, staff asked if she could again be willing to go through the emotions that working with an end-of-life population entail.

hospice-volunteers-marilou-chadurjian-poster-580-1“I had lost several family members and two of my children, but I wanted to give back, and volunteering for hospice is such a way to give back,” said Chadurjian.

Her admiration for hospice came from first-hand experience with her late sister, who relied on hospice during her final days. Also, a doctor friend of Chadurjian received care from Wuesthoff Hospice.

“I saw how much hospice helped, and how caring they are,” said Chadurjian.

“I could not believe how attentive they were.”

As luck would have it, Chadurjian was leafing through the newspaper when she saw an invitation to volunteer at Wuesthoff Hospice. She called immediately. That was a dozen years ago, and the Viera resident has never regretted her decision.

Chadurjian is one of hospice’s friendly visitors, a friendly face and kind voice at nursing homes, hospice house and patients’ homes. This particular type of volunteering can be emotionally draining, since visitors bond with patients who, unfortunately, often all too soon pass away.

“I have a hard time, because you become very attached,” said Chadurjian.

WUESTHOFF-HOSPICE-300-1“I love them all. It’s like losing a member of your family. You never get used to it, because you can’t help but fall in love with these people. You’re grateful and thankful that you can help.”

She knows that it will be rough when a current patient passes, for she has visited him and his wife of 60 years as often as five times a week to spend up to four hours with him.

“When I first started, he was cognizant and sitting up,” she said.

“We talked a lot, watched old movies and baseball games to give his wife the opportunity to go to church and do errands. He can’t talk anymore, but I just sit and hold his hand. When I get ready to go, he doesn’t want to let go of my hand.”

“Hospice does amazing work,” said Chadurjian.

She is right, hospice is a blessing, thanks to volunteers like Marilou Chadurjian.


Nancy Toney’s best pal, Sunny, is proof that love and caring is not reserved just for humans.

hospice-volunteers-toney-poster-580-1Toney and Sunny, a gorgeous Shetland Sheepdog, comprise a team whose visits brighten the lives of dog-loving patients of VITAS Healthcare through the hospice’s Paw Pals program.

“We walk into the room and the patients immediately light up,” said Toney.

“It makes their life happier, if only for a few minutes. It interrupts the routine. Most of them have had dogs in the past, and it helps them to remember their own pets.”

Sunny is one of a dozen Paw Pals canines who visit VITAS patients in nursing homes, assisted living communities and private residences to offer a welcome distraction from illness. They leave their patients–and anyone else lucky to be around–smiling, more relaxed and maybe even healthier.

Toney has noticed that Sunny knows when it is time to head for therapy work and he happily turns on the extra charm.

“His personality changes,” she laughed.

“He saves himself for the outside world.”

The fact that Sunny, with his enviable mane of golden hair, has killer good looks also doesn’t hurt in making him a people magnet, either.

Sunny is no ordinary dog, for the ten-year-old is a seasoned pro at making people feel better. A certified therapy dog, Sunny is also a canine good citizen, which means he has passed a rigorous program developed by the American Kennel Club to recognize dogs whose owners have provided the necessary training to make them models of canine behavior. 

vitas-healthcare-logo-580-1Toney and Sunny have been involved in therapy work for six years. Toney taught him tricks such as “give me five,” which he always uses when visiting patients.

In addition to their work with VITAS, the Toney/Sunny dream therapy team visit patients at Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center every month. Toney also visits nursing homes as part of her work for the Sunshine Committee at her church.

Toney, who retired as a teaching assistant for the public schools for 23 years, has lived in Brevard for more than 60 years. Serving VITAS has special meaning for the Melbourne resident, who is extremely grateful for the help the hospice gave her partner, Fred, during his last weeks.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-323-4460 or 321-615-8111 or e-mail


The 2016 Central Florida Humanitarians have been announced and include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities. Also announced today was the honoree for the Lifetime Achievement.
The 2016 Central Florida Humanitarians have been announced and include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities. Also announced today was the honoree for the Lifetime Achievement.

Recognizing Outstanding Individuals & Organizations Who Dedicate Their Time, Talent and Treasure

CENTRAL FLORIDA, USA – The 2016 Central Florida Humanitarians have been announced and include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities. 

Also announced today was the honoree for the Lifetime Achievement. Information about the hospital and hospice volunteers will be released Oct. 1.

The Central Florida Humanitarian honorees will be recognized during a Gala event on Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.

The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created seven years ago by Space Coast Daily to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their time, talent or treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.

The 2016 Central Florida Humanitarians have been announced and include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities. All Humanitarian alumni are presented a specially commissioned medallion.

TIME: In this category consider candidates who have selflessly and consistently devoted their time as volunteers at hospitals and nursing homes, in activities for the less fortunate and as organizers, administrators or operatives in the many other altruistic endeavors in our community.
TALENT: In this category give consideration to those who have volunteered their special talents and expertise to address specific circumstances in which the lives of those in need are improved.
TREASURE: The humanitarians in this category will include those who have generously shared their monetary good fortune and/or volunteered their time and efforts in fund raising for the advancement of a philanthropic cause.

All 2016 honorees will be featured in the Oct/Nov 2016 edition of Space Coast Daily magazine and online at  The magazine will be available the first week of October in both print and digital editions, which will also be available on


• 211 Brevard
• Advocates For Aging
• Rusty Buchanan
• Steve Bunker
• Cape Canaveral Ladies
• Stop the Bleed Team
• Junior League of South Brevard
• Space Coast Iceplex Disabled Sled Hockey
• AJ Hiers
• Sharon James
• Keep Brevard Beautiful
• Janet Marks
• Paws and Stripes College
• Port Canaveral Commission
• Col. Danny McKnight
• Rolling Readers Space Coast
• Leo Roselip
• Space Coast Health Foundation
• Space Coast Paratroopers
• Central Florida Animal Refuge
• BCSO Chief Deputy Doug Waller
• Jarvis Wash
• Dr. Carlos Woodward
• The 2016 Central Florida Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement honoree is Bernie Simpkins.


As always, the Central Florida Humanitarian committee will also honor hospital and hospice volunteers from Health First Hospice, the Dr. Jey Pillai Center for Hospice Care at Wasdin Woods, VITAS, Hospice of St. Francis, Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital, Health First Viera Hospital, Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center, Health First Palm Bay Hospital, Wuesthoff Medical Center – Melbourne, Wuesthoff Medical Center – Rockledge, the VA Clinic in Viera, and Sebastian River Medical Center. 

Dr. Jim Palermo
Dr. Jim Palermo

“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 Space Coast Daily Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.

“For the seventh consecutive year, we will once again produce the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala on the first Thursday of November. This year, more than 30 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala.”

The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will be part of Space Coast Medicine Week, a comprehensive series of health and educational events produced by Space Coast Daily.


This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Parrish Medical Center, SOAR, BioCellular Therapies, Brighthouse Networks, First Choice Medical Group, Clear Choice Health Care, Community Credit Union, Lake Nona Medical Arts, Brevard Geriatrics, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Dr. Mark Pinsky, Space Coast Daily magazine and Each honoree or organization will be presented the Central Florida Humanitarian Crystal Globe.

Giles Malone

“We would like to thank our long list of sponsors who support the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards and who make this wonderful event possible,” said Giles Malone, a partner with Space Coast Daily and Brevard Productions, who annually produce all the events of Space Coast Medicine Week.


Stay tuned to Space Coast Daily magazine and for exclusive and comprehensive multimedia coverage of each honoree as we present their compelling stories.

Tom Palermo
Tom Palermo

“Please join us on Thursday, Nov. 3 to celebrate and be inspired by these incredible individuals and groups,” said Space Coast Daily President & Publisher Tom Palermo. 

“In the meantime, please click the link below that showcases the distinguished Central Florida Humanitarian Alumni.”


FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-323-4460 or 321-615-8111 or e-mail

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ABOVE MAP: The 2016 Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will take place Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, located at 200 Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.

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