As Healthcare Volunteer Week kicks off on April 16th, we want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable contribution made by our volunteers at Hospice of the Piedmont. Their unwavering dedication and support make a significant difference in the lives of our patients and their families. We want to introduce you to just nine of our 100+ volunteers who contribute more than 3,000 hours of service to our organization each year.
HOP volunteers help with everything from patient care to administrative tasks.
Caring for hospice patients is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week commitment, often undertaken by family members. So, our volunteers primarily provide companionship and respite services, allowing caregivers to take a break or run errands.
Some of our volunteers are engaged in administrative tasks, such as data entry and assembling patient materials, while others utilize their unique skills and talents to support our patients. Patients can avail themselves of volunteer massage therapists, reiki practitioners, and participate in creative expression through our Art by the Bedside program. Additionally, we offer therapeutic music through our partnerships with Music by the Bedside, The Front Porch, and The Threshold Singers. Volunteer therapy dogs (and their people!) also visit our facilities and patients’ homes.
All our volunteers complete a comprehensive 15-hour training program before they begin their service with us. For more information about volunteering, please visit our volunteer page.
Becky Pence is an 83-year-old mother of three and grandmother of five who grew up on a farm in Albemarle County and graduated from the University of Virginia as an X-Ray Technologist. In 1989, when her children left for college, Becky began working at Martha Jefferson Hospital, where she also discovered a passion for volunteering.
At Hospice of the Piedmont, Becky is a dedicated volunteer who assembles our Patient and Family Guidebooks. These binders contain vital information for families, ranging from emergency contacts to symptom management advice. Every new patient who joins HOP’s service receives one of these binders. Becky takes great pride in her work, saying, “When I finish putting together the binders, I put them on a little shelf. And every time I come back, the shelves are empty. That feels good.”
Becky is no stranger to volunteering, having contributed her time and talents to several organizations, such as Meals on Wheels and Martha Jefferson Hospital. “I like to volunteer,” she explains. “I think you need to give. You’ve been given so much. It just makes you feel good. And I believe so much in hospice. I really do.”
Caroline Wilhelm has lived in Charlottesville for 20 years. During that time, she worked for several area nonprofits, including the Charlottesville Symphony and Hospice of the Piedmont, where she was in the Advancement Department. She’s been a volunteer with HOP for seven years.
As a Hospice House volunteer, Caroline supports staff and prepares patient meals. “I enjoy serving patients a meal if they’re interested in eating,” she says. “I love to bring them lots of indulgent foods because we’re all about the quality of life. If I can give a patient dessert three times a day, I will.”
Caroline says that volunteering has helped her focus on the present moment and appreciate life’s essentials. “This job focuses me on the present. It’s all we really have,” she says. “The past is gone. The future is uncertain. At the Hospice House, we live in the moment. That’s how this job has changed me. I’m so aware of that. When I leave here, I think, I need to enjoy every minute I have – minute by minute.”
Shanitra Moore, a resident of Charlottesville for the past decade, has worked in various roles, including an office manager, certified nursing assistant, and currently as a manager with ACAC.
In her spare time, she volunteers with Hospice of the Piedmont in different capacities, such as offering companionship to patients when their primary caregivers need a break. “Someone might need to go to the grocery store, and I want them to know their mom, dad, or whoever is taken care of. I like being the person that can step in and help out,” she says.
Shanitra recently completed HOP’s fifty-hour Death Doula training program. “The class was great. We discussed some deep stuff that allowed me to look at my life. The class really puts things into perspective,” she says. “I want people to know that hospice is not just people laying around and waiting to pass away. It’s more than that.”
T.K. Woods was born in Buffalo, NY, and moved around a lot as a kid. He eventually enrolled in UVA Law School and spent 30 years in the Navy as a JAG lawyer before entering private practice. Finally, he landed in Charlottesville, settling into the house where his father was born.
As a volunteer, T.K. provides companionship to patients and participates in Pinning Ceremonies for Veterans. “Before I go, I try to get ahold of someone in the family and learn about the patient. And that’s what I really enjoy because everybody’s got a story,” he explains.
“My most satisfactory pinning was of a WWII Vet. He was surrounded by family and friends, none of whom knew much about his service. His family said that he never talked about it,” says Woods. “So, I looked him up. It turns out, he’d landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day as a member of Patton’s 2nd Armored Division. His division spearheaded the Allied response in the Battle of the Bulge, the war’s largest, bloodiest, and most costly battle. He was discharged in September 1945 with six bronze stars and Belgian Fourragère – a true American Hero.” Woods pauses, “It was quite an emotional experience for those in attendance.”
Sue McDaniel has recently retired after 41 years in commercial banking, but her passion for volunteering in Culpeper has remained constant. She finds joy in helping others and being involved in her church. “I’m a Christian, and my trust and faith in God are very important in my life,” she says.
She now volunteers as a Data Entry Specialist, tracking and quantifying all of HOP’s volunteer activities. “It’s interesting to see the whole realm of what people are experiencing in those final days of life,” she says.
For Sue, volunteering with HOP is personal as she reflects on her mother’s passing 18 years ago while under hospice care. She explains, “Hospice isn’t just there for the patient; it also helps the family. And I think that’s what I remember, how it helped me through that time, both emotionally and spiritually. I feel like I’m doing what I need to do, and I think my mom would be pleased.”
Aurora DeMarco is a Massage Therapist in her professional life and as a volunteer for HOP. She previously worked in a nursing home and was a bereavement counselor with a hospice in New York. For Aurora, being part of a community-based organization with a mission is fulfilling.
As a volunteer, Aurora typically rotates through different patients each week as a Massage Therapist, but her focus shifts to one patient over an extended period of time when serving as a Death Doula. “Working with my clients is truly a calling, and the work is very rewarding,” she says.
“I’ve had clients with such diverse backgrounds. I always feel like I learn something from them,” says Aurora. She believes it’s wonderful that people are so open to receiving support at this stage of their lives. “There’s an openness that happens at the end of life. I’ve seen some really beautiful deaths,” she reflects. “It’s reassuring.”
Camille Bartus is a retired registered nurse who moved to Charlottesville about 18 months ago. However, this is not her first stint working with hospice; she worked as a hospice nurse in Northern Virginia in the 1980s. She also worked as an oncology nurse, and in prevention and wellness.
“After almost fifty years in my nursing career, I felt like hospice was the most rewarding and fulfilling work I had ever done. So, I wanted to give back,” she says. Today, Camille volunteers in the Hospice House, supporting the staff and providing patients with meals and snacks.
“The services are so important, and people, not just patients, but also family members, benefit so much,” she says. “I enjoy providing them with something that gives them a smile or makes them comfortable. We try to support the patients and family any way we can.”
Jim and Gina met at the University of Virginia, where they were members of different branches of the ROTC. After graduation, Jim served in the Marine Corps for 25 years before transitioning to a career as a defense contractor, while Gina served as an Air Force nurse for 32 years. Having lived in various places around the world, they returned to Charlottesville in 2005. “Now, we’re just looking for opportunities to continue to serve,” says Jim.
As volunteers with HOP, their primary role is to provide companionship and respite to patients and their families. “I find it fulfilling to make a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s just for a couple of hours,” says Gina. “Whether it’s socializing with the patient or giving the caregiver a break to run errands, they appreciate the help,” she adds.
As veterans themselves, the Mallons also assist with Veteran Pinning Ceremonies. “These ceremonies are often more important for the families than the patients,” Jim notes. “They get to see, hear, and appreciate what their loved one has accomplished.”