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My very first volunteer experience as an adult was with Parkview Hospice. At the time, I was almost fluent in Spanish and there was a specific need for a Spanish-speaking volunteer that I responded to. I didn’t end up volunteering with that opportunity, but was matched with a man we’ll call “Sam”.

You might be asking yourself what qualifications I had at 18 to be a hospice volunteer. Trust me, I asked myself the same question all the time. Turns out, all it takes is an open ear and caring heart.

After receiving excellent volunteer training by the Parkview Hospice staff, I began my weekly, one-hour visits with Sam. I was there to help with anything he needed or just to be a listening ear. What I found was that all Sam needed during those visits was a chocolate milkshake, someone to get his mail and to sit with him. Sometimes we talked; sometimes he napped. But no matter what, he knew I would be there.

Every hospice patient and his or her needs are different. Each of these unique characteristics present unique opportunities for you to volunteer and serve. You might not think you’re qualified. I promise you, if you’re reading this and you feel at all curious – you’re qualified.

I haven’t just been on the volunteer side of hospice. You see, both of my grandpa’s have died of cancer in the past two years and both spent their last few days on hospice. That’s the hard part about volunteering. The person you’ll get to know won’t be someone you know very long. All hospice patients must medically qualify to be on the service and for most, that is receiving diagnosis from a physician that they have less than six months to live.

As I think about the love, care and attention my grandpa’s received while on hospice, I know what those caregivers and volunteers meant to them and to our family. Even if you aren’t able to spend a lot of time with your patient while they are here, I know you’ll carry them with you. I can’t help but think about Sam and his stories every time I think about having a chocolate milkshake or pass his neighborhood.

Will you answer the call to volunteer?

Read more about current opportunities to volunteer with Parkview Hospice and volunteer trainings beginning next week.