- April 1, 2022
A Tidewell patient was celebrating his 80th birthday one Sunday afternoon. As part of his birthday party, Terry Purcell, a seven-year Tidewell volunteer, honored this veteran for his service with a pinning ceremony.
Several months later, Purcell received a card written by the veteran’s daughter. Her father died two weeks after his pinning ceremony.
For the last two weeks of his life, every morning, the veteran would insist the pin be on his shirt and could not stop talking about that one event.
“To be the person who can bring that to a family…” said Purcell as his face flushes and he struggles to find the words to finish his sentence.
Purcell is a retired Air Force veteran, so volunteering with a focus on the veterans that come to Tidewell was a no brainer.
Purcell said that there is a wave of Vietnam veterans that are arriving at Tidewell and he noticed that no one has ever thanked them for their service or even welcomed them home. “When I find out that a patient is a Vietnam veteran, everything stops and we do (thank them).”
Many locals know Tidewell Hospice, which is a member of Empath Health, as one of those organizations that can provide support at difficult times.
At Empath Health, volunteers play a vital role in giving patients and their families an extra friend during the emotional burden of life departure. Volunteers help this nonprofit by donating their time and doing the small things like writing a "thank you" card to a patient who is a veteran.
“The business of Tidewell is to take care of people when they’re on their last mission,” said Purcell.
Like many health care facilities, the effect of COVID-19 has impacted Empath Health. The area that has been affected the greatest is one of the most important: volunteers.
“Post pandemic, we are down to almost 50% of what we had pre pandemic, and the volunteers are so relied on to make a difference in the lives of those who are terminally ill, or in supporting areas of the hospice program,” said Empath Health Vice President and Volunteer Engagement Stacy Groff in an email.
Lynda Anderson has been an Empath volunteer for 10 years and said that this was one of the things that brought her a sense of fulfillment. “I used to volunteer elsewhere and I felt like I wasn’t doing enough and wanted to do more. I found my niche with hospice volunteer work. Everyone appreciates you so much: the staff, the patients, their families. You really feel like you’re making a difference,” she said.
Groff explained that, “anytime you have a reduction in the availability, that’s just less that’s available for the patients.” Groff goes on to say that they are looking for anyone who is willing to give a helping hand.
“I talked to two friends that are looking for volunteer work and said, ‘I don’t think I can do that.’ But there are so many volunteer opportunities at hospice that you don't really have to do what maybe they perceive is the scary part. There are administrative opportunities and greeters.” said Anderson.
Empath has a variety of volunteer opportunities. Being a cashier at Tidewell Treasure Thrift Shop is one of those opportunities. If you love pets, visiting patients with a pet can be therapeutic for both you and the patient. And if you are a craft wizard, creating crafts with their Expressive Arts Program can be right up your alley.
“Every time I put this (lanyard) around my neck, I look in the mirror and say, ‘make a difference where you’re going today’,” said Purcell.
If interested or have questions about volunteering at Empath Health, call Stacy Groff at 941-894-1753.