Since our inception in 1979, Community Hospice & Palliative Care has counted on the selfless commitment of caring volunteers to join us in helping provide our patients with compassionate end-of-life care.
For National Volunteer Appreciation Month, we’re showcasing a few of the hundreds of amazing volunteers who make Community Hospice & Palliative Care a leader in hospice care.
Cheryl Barnett has been volunteering with Community Hospice since 2018, after retiring from a 40-year banking career. As a 3rd generation native of Jacksonville, she has always been an active volunteer with many local not-for-profit organizations. Cheryl believes it’s important for all people to use whatever gifts and talents they have to make a positive difference within their families and communities.
In 2018 when Cheryl had the opportunity to retire early from a 40-year banking career, she knew she wanted to continue her involvement in the not-for-profit sector and began searching for an organization that had a good reputation and which made a significant contribution to the local community through their work. “I had firsthand experience of the wonderful work that Community Hospice & Palliative Care does as both my Grandmother and Mother were patients of hospice care during their final days.” After that experience, Cheryl began her journey of volunteering with Community Hospice & Palliative Care.
At first, Cheryl volunteered about 2 hours a week, working on numerous projects, particularly through the Creative HeARTs initiative. Now Cheryl commits between 6-9 hours a week to volunteer at Community Hospice. “There are so many ways to volunteer, and I enjoy the variety of tasks I’ve been assigned. There is always something to be done and everyone in the Volunteer Services Department seems to genuinely appreciate the help.
Cheryl’s first volunteering opportunity was also her most memorable. “I was given the assignment to visit a patient in a local long-term care facility. When I arrived at the patient’s room, I was greeted by a nurse who said she couldn’t believe I had arrived so quickly, as she had just called Community Hospice & Palliative Care for a Vigil volunteer. The patient was expected to pass away very soon and had no family to be with him. I told the nurse that I wasn’t an experienced Vigil volunteer, but I would not leave the patient until someone arrived to replace me. I have no idea if the patient knew I was there, but it was a humbling and spiritual experience for me. When I left, I remember feeling so grateful for all the volunteers who do make a difference every day in the lives of our patients and their families.
Cheryl also shares how volunteering at Community Hospice has helped change her for the better. “I’ve enjoyed the transition from working full time to retiring and investing my time and energy to make a difference in the lives of our Community Hospice & Palliative Care patients and their families.” She also finds it a rare privilege to be a part of the Community Hospice family during the COVID-19 Pandemic. She notes how the organization has gone through great lengths to protect staff members and volunteers, while maintaining them informed, involved, and motivated. She even notes how some projects may have never come about if it had not been for that extraordinary time.
Finally, Cheryl offers individuals who are on the fence about volunteering, or who might be doubting their abilities, some encouragement, and helpful advice. “I believe we would all like to know that somehow our being here makes a difference! Every one of us has some gift or talent that could be shared. Do you like people? Could you sit with a patient and read to them, or watch a football game with them? Would you be comfortable greeting people at the front desk? Do you like to paint, sew, scrapbook? Do you like photography or enjoy journaling? Do you own a dog or cat that would be a good pet therapy animal? Do you have office experience and/or computer skills? Do you enjoy public speaking? Perhaps being an ambassador would a good fit for you. Whatever you have to offer, I can assure you Community Hospice & Palliative Care can put it to good use and your service will be greatly appreciated!