National Volunteer Week starts April 19. We dearly miss our nearly 1,000 active volunteers (whose roles have been paused due to COVID), and cannot thank them enough for the value they bring to our patients and staff! Since Day One at Agrace, volunteers have applied their life experiences, talent and enthusiasm to support our mission. They make our care more personal and more compassionate, as you’ll see in these examples:
Peter Knight, inpatient unit volunteer
How do your visits with Agrace patients help them feel supported?
I visit with patients who want company. I can give them undivided attention, and I do a lot of listening—and that’s OK.
I help feed patients who are unable to do it for themselves and offer breaks to family members. I also straighten up the room, put laundry away and get fresh flowers to make their environment as attractive, comfortable, restful and welcoming as possible.
Very simple gestures like sitting close, listening carefully, offering a heated blanket, laughing out loud, talking about what it feels like outside and letting in the sunshine help those who might be lonely, confused or scared.
Michael Friedlander (U.S. Army & Reserves), Vet-to-Vet volunteer
How do your visits with Agrace patients who are veterans support them as they face the end of life?
I believe veteran patients inherently trust another veteran, based on mutual willingness to make the most supreme sacrifice to protect the country. Whether it’s stories of basic training, tours overseas, battle buddies or hardships endured, we always find a comfortable space to connect. For many combat veterans, this trust allows them to process painful military memories that are meaningful, but cathartic to share.
I remember how a WWII naval serviceman—blind from macular degeneration—asked that I read his memoirs of the Pacific Battle. It brought tears to his eyes as I read of Kamikaze attacks that killed his friends. He said the reading was important to keep his friends’ spirits alive and underscore his gratitude for surviving. Vulnerable disclosure is only possible when communication is trusted.
Volunteering for Agrace, I am able to show respect to those who have followed the honorable path of serving our country. I feel more connected with humanity and am reminded of wisdom from the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn: “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.”
Thank you, volunteers. We hope to see you again soon!