Amy O'Dea, Passages Hospice
While she always wanted to be a volunteer manager, Amy says she stumbled into the hospice field. After seeing the inspiring dedication of her volunteers, however, she couldn't be happier with where she ended up.
Amy O'Dea didn't intend to work at a hospice. As she says, she "just kind of stumbled into the hospice field." Now, though, as the Regional Volunteer Coordinator at Passages Hospice in Illinois, she feels lucky to have ended up here.
After volunteering for a year as an Americorps VISTA in the Youth Coordinator position for the Red Cross in New Hampshire, Amy wasn't sure what she would do next. She knew she wanted to "help people," and had always dreamed of working in a volunteer management position.
When she joined Passages Hospice as the Volunteer Coordinator in 2011, she quickly realized how fortunate she was. "This job allows me to empower volunteers, work with the older population and see the beauty intergenerational relationships have on our world," Amy relates. "I never thought I would be working at a hospice company, but am so happy this is where I ended up."
Volunteers at Passages Hospice serve as companions to terminally ill patients. They spend an hour a week visiting an assigned patient. They converse, watch television, listen to music, make crafts, take their patient for a walk and more. "You name it, our volunteers do it," says Amy. One volunteer (who was recruited through VolunteerMatch) made a cat memorial out of popsicle sticks with her patient.
Some volunteers bring their dogs with them on their visits. Passages also engages volunteers to provide support to caregivers and to help out in the office.
Amy is personally inspired by her volunteers. "Just the fact that there are people out there who want to spend time with the dying is touching," she says.
People who volunteer with Passages positively impact the lives of patients and their family members, and the benefit goes both ways. Amy tells the story of Amber Broad, a volunteer with Passages. She is studying social work at Illinois State University, and visits a patient with visual impairments. Amber herself is visually impaired, and brings along her seeing eye dog Zoey. Amber and her patient have formed a close, supportive relationship, sharing their experiences together being blind.
"Volunteers are the unsung heroes of our society," says Amy. "They each have a story as to why they are volunteering and I love hearing these stories."
Although Passages has been around since 2005, last year was the first time they had full time volunteer managers. When Amy started there were only two volunteers in her area, so recruitment was her first priority. "VolunteerMatch made my job so much easier!" she says. She posted some listings in multiple areas and right away there were inquiries. In less than a year, the number of Passages volunteers has steadily increased.
"It takes a special person to be a hospice volunteer," Amy explains. This can make recruitment even more challenging. She says they have found extraordinary volunteers through VolunteerMatch, and it has been especially effective in reaching out to high school and college students. "VolunteerMatch allows us to create intergenerational relationships that decrease loneliness and boredom in our terminally ill patients," she says.
Amy feels personally fulfilled by her work at Passages. She says working with the volunteers inspires her to be a better person, as well. She spends some of her free time volunteering with the PV Volunteers program and with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"Working with Passages has taught me to truly live life to the fullest," says Amy. "There will come a time in all of our lives when we will look back and wonder if we accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish. I am hoping to do so."
About Passages Hospice
Passages Hospice is dedicated to "family and patient" centered care, focusing on the family's wants and needs as well as each patient's best interest. They care for the entire family, and provide additional education, resources and family care services, in additional to legal and medical expertise.
515 Warrenville Road
Lisle, IL 60532
Check out Passages Hospice volunteer opportunities at VolunteerMatch.
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