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JourneyCare celebrates National Volunteer Week

‘Compassion and dedication’

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived just over a year ago, JourneyCare volunteers were faced with a unique challenge: how do you continue supporting patients and their families while keeping everyone safe? It was a tough question for people who fill more than 40 roles in our agency, including volunteering in pet therapy, direct patient support, administrative work, fundraising and more.

But as we celebrate National Volunteer Week this spring from April 18-24, we honor their creativity and commitment in the face of extraordinary challenges. Many continued to connect through patients through phone and video chats. Others made crafts, food or other surprises for patients. And some even became part of JourneyCare’s new We Care Call program, which utilizes volunteer phone support to enhance the patient and caregiver experience, improve timeliness of care, and provide emotional support.

“Volunteers are a unique and special category of people,” JourneyCare Volunteer Supervisor, Ali Behrens says. “Their impact can be seen and felt in every corner of JourneyCare, from vigil ceremonies to our blooming gardens. National Volunteer Month is an opportunity to highlight their contributions and share our appreciation for all the time and dedication they put into our organization.”

Even though many COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in Illinois and at JourneyCare, our volunteers continue to find ways to safely connect with our staff, patients and each other, and to give back to their community.

“I am continually amazed and humbled by the extent to which our volunteers serve JourneyCare,” Volunteer Supervisor Kathy Schimmelpfennig said. “They share their professional expertise and life experiences with dedication and compassion and their contributions to JourneyCare are integral to the care we provide to patients and families.”

Interested in volunteering?
You are also welcome to join their efforts, lending your time and talents to support our nonprofit mission to provide expert, compassionate care for anyone facing serious illness.

Here, some of our JourneyCare volunteers share why that might be a great idea in 2021!

Paul Kim – Pediatric care, patient care and Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council member

4 years
I volunteer with JourneyCare because I want to give back to the community. I became aware of the volunteer program when working for JourneyCare as a Licensed Practical Nurse for seven years. During those years I have had challenges and successes. I had mentors who helped me navigate through challenges of working as a hospice nurse. In honor of those that helped me along the way, I wanted to give back to the community and carry on as a volunteer with the same commitment I had when I worked at JourneyCare.

The fact that I am serving my community brings me the most joy when volunteering. And my volunteer role is very personal because of my firsthand experience. I recognize that the staff and volunteers are central to making JourneyCare a strong organization. Also, volunteers provide the care that patients and their families appreciate. As another consideration for anyone considering a volunteer role, JourneyCare’s mission statement says it all: “Enriching lives through expert and compassionate care.”

Kim Heselbarth – Administrative offices volunteer

6 years
I volunteer because I had a positive experience with a similar organization downstate more than 25 years ago when my father was dying. The care and compassion he (and our family) were given left quite an impression on me, one that I haven’t forgotten. Thus, supporting the mission of JourneyCare to help other families became important to me. Helping others is very rewarding and I enjoy using my skills in a productive way. By volunteering my time, I am taking a task off of a JourneyCare employee which in turn frees them up to focus on other initiatives. In addition, I also appreciate the opportunity to connect with people with very specific shared values and like working toward a common goal.

If you are considering volunteering – go for it! In fact, my husband and friend have also become JourneyCare volunteers since I began. Specifically, when the Pet Therapy program was introduced I knew it would be an ideal opportunity for my husband because he loves dogs. After I told him about it, he agreed to become a volunteer. My friend who became a volunteer is a caring, empathetic and compassionate person whose interests also align nicely with JourneyCare’s mission.

Mark Mazur – Finance Department volunteer

2 years
About two and a half years ago, my wife died of cancer at the Barrington CareCenter. We had planned to retire early together, but I ended up retiring early to care for her. After I lost her I started sessions with Bereavement Counselor Vicki Foreman at JourneyCare. Both Vicki and a friend approached me with the same observation: that I was bored and needed purpose. Because my professional background is in accounting, Vicki recommended that I use my accounting expertise to help the JourneyCare Finance Department. And because JourneyCare helped me, I was happy to help them.

I think volunteering with JourneyCare can be especially valuable for people who are retired. Sitting in front of the TV is the worst thing; you need to stay mentally and physically active, and need a reason to get out of bed. This gives me purpose and I think my role shows that there are a lot of ways to give back without being directly involved in patient care. Whatever your expertise and whatever you are comfortable with, JourenyCare has a place for you.

Maria Jordan – Music volunteer

3 years
I typically perform music in the public spaces within the JourneyCare inpatient hospice CareCenters, whether on my ukulele, guitar, piano or by singing. When my mom was in another inpatient hospice unit several years ago over the course of six weeks, there was a musician who came once a week to play piano. I loved hearing her play during that difficult time, and she had no reason to be there, other than to care for us with her music. After my mom died I thought, “I could probably do that!” then went about researching hospice volunteer programs and found JourneyCare. I love providing the same comfort for families, and some moments really stand out. A patient family once asked me if I could play an ABBA song for them, since they had wanted to see the film “Mama Mia” with their loved one, but she declined too quickly. I came to the room and played “Dancing Queen,” and the patient – who had been minimally responsive for days – began moving her feet and smiling. The family told me that the song made all the difference for them. I loved that I could be there for a them when they needed something positive. Music helps us forget where we are for a moment.

Those who have lost a loved one may find that volunteering is actually helpful. There was a time after my mom died that the idea of volunteering seemed overwhelming – like it would stir up too many emotions. But I was surprised that I found solace in volunteering and it actually helped me heal more.