The incredible support of our volunteers is fundamental to the success Crossroads Hospice has providing comfort, care and compassion for every Crossroads patient.
Whether it’s creating a journal that honors a patient’s life, checking up on them or even just sitting with someone and holding their hand in a time of need, these volunteers have demonstrated a set of skills and compassion that are invaluable to the team’s efforts.
But beyond all of this — behind the scenes — there is someone responsible for enabling all of this to come to fruition. Someone who organizes these volunteer efforts, works tirelessly to bring in new volunteers and retain loyal ones, and usually doesn’t get the recognition they deserve.
The volunteer manager.
What does a hospice volunteer manager do? Despite the cliché, there’s no real typical day on the job, but it all begins with one word.
In One Word
“Multitasking,” said Veronica Evans, a volunteer manager for Crossroads Hospice in Lenexa, KS.“Constant multitasking.”
The life of a volunteer manager requires an ability to juggle various tasks or projects at the same time. Tasks such as doing paperwork, setting up a volunteer with a patient, enacting marketing efforts to recruit new volunteers, checking on current volunteers, their patients and so much more.
In fact, when we first called Evans to hear her story, she actually had to postpone our conversation for about 15 minutes to attend to three new volunteers who just happened to be walking in the door at that moment. We were happy to wait.
It just goes to show: you never really know what is going to pop up as a volunteer manager, but that is something Evans has learned to appreciate about the job.
“I’ve been doing this for many, many years. I love it,” she says. “I learn from the volunteers, I embrace it and I accept the interruptions and changes constantly.”
An Average Day
Okay, so there may not be an average day in the life of Evans, but she experiences plenty of recurring themes that can speak to her role and its importance to the Crossroads organization.
“My day starts out with being thankful that I wake up,” Evans explains. It’s one thing that she’s learned from working with volunteers in hospice — to appreciate not necessarily the quantity, but the quality of life that she has been afforded.
Her outlook is vital to being the incredibly effective volunteer manager that she is. Working directly with volunteers — who do what they do out of passion above all else — the volunteer manager must share that passion. And share it Evans does.
“Everyday I come into work and update [current] volunteers on their patients,” Evans says. “I look at newly admitted patients and determine whether or not they need a volunteer. The social workers will do an assessment and submit the volunteer requests, so we find out where they live, if they’re a Veteran, if they want a journal or companionship, if they’re alert and oriented or if they’re looking for more of a supportive presence.”
All of these are factors she’ll have to consider when finding the perfect volunteer to suit a patient’s need.
“It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together,” she says.“What volunteers do I have available that are going to be a good fit for this patient?”
This determination greatly relies on a constant communication that she holds with all of her volunteers.
“I admire [what hospice volunteers do] because they have to go through the application process just like employees,” Evans says, and it can be a lot.
A volunteer has to go through TB testing, background checks and interviews as a requirement mandated by Medicare. Yet these volunteers have constantly proven their diligence, patience and commitment to the mission of Crossroads Hospice in taking all of this on — but not without the support of people like Evans.
“We, as volunteers managers have to reassure them and say, ‘I know it’s a lot of paperwork and you have to do a background check and a TB test, but we are strangers that are being welcomed into these people’s homes and so it’s for their safety.’”
In doing so, Evans is able to establish connections with these volunteers and build relationships with them that will, hopefully, keep them coming back. For her, that’s the most rewarding part of the job: relationship building.
“Volunteers need that ongoing encouragement,” she says, “because when you’re sitting there as a volunteer with a family and a patient that has requested a volunteer, the patient may be fully responsive. The volunteers need to feel that they’re making a difference. Even if it’s a one-way conversation — the patient isn’t responding to their handholding or their reading — the volunteers need to be reassured.”
She continues, “They’re there because they’re needed and they’re wanted, so what I have to do is reassure them of that. Please know that you are needed, you are wanted, you are appreciated and your presence makes a difference.”
Evans, who is celebrating her five year anniversary with Crossroads Hospice this month, finds that this support she works so tirelessly to offer, in its greatest cases, does just that and more.
“My hope for our volunteers [through this process] is that they become advocates for hospice,” she says. “People hear the word hospice and they shut down and don’t want to talk about it.
“We want them to feel comfortable when they hear of somebody needing hospice care, not only supporting their friends or family, but saying, ‘Let me tell you about hospice.’ It is not about dying; it’s about living and embracing life and [these volunteers] are there with you from the beginning to the end.”
Evans’ story truly speaks to the success and inspiration driven through Crossroads’ amazing volunteer program.
If you or anyone you know may be a fit for getting involved and would like to volunteer in hospice, Crossroads has plenty of opportunities here.
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