The Women's Journal

Volunteers: A Mission-Critical Calling

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Every Wednesday, Dottie, a retired nurse, comes to Delaware Hospice’s Dover office to make friendly check-in calls to patients in the Delaware Palliative and Delaware Transitions programs. She also audits and organizes the nurse supply closet, in addition to helping out with our education programs. John spends much of his time in the community visiting patients, sometimes sitting vigil when one is nearing the end of their journey. Sharon can be found taking care of clerical and fundraising tasks in the Newark office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon until closing—with the regularity and dedication of a paid employee.

If you’ve ever wondered how a nonprofit like Delaware Hospice can provide top-quality care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, you’ve just met one of the key factors in the equation: volunteers like Dottie, John, and Sharon. 

Volunteers do more than stuff envelopes

Along with a mission-driven staff, expert leadership, and generous donors, volunteers play a critical role in helping Delaware Hospice provide expert, compassionate care for serious illness. Volunteers can be found in every single department at Delaware Hospice – including in the volunteer office!

In 2019, more than 400 volunteers ranging in age from 16 to 90 contributed over 26,000 hours of service — delivering patient supplies, greeting visitors to the Delaware Hospice Center, picking up prescriptions, making follow-up phone calls to grieving families, giving rides to adult daycare, sewing lap blankets, and helping children work through their losses at Camp New Hope. Their donated time was worth more than $479,000 and freed Delaware Hospice to direct funds where they’re most needed. 

“When Delaware Hospice calls me, I know I can make a difference because someone needs me now,” explains Mike Raser, who runs errands, transports patients, and sometimes sits vigil. As an Army vet, Mike also plays a special role in Delaware Hospice’s Vet-to-Vet program. 

Rolonda, the (paid) volunteer coordinator, started with Delaware Hospice as a hospice nurse. In 2016, she took on the temporary responsibility of managing the volunteers for New Castle, Kent, Delaware, and Chester counties — and she never looked back. Now she’s putting her nursing skills to use interpreting notes in patient files to better match and support volunteers in their roles. Meanwhile, she continues to work as a Delaware Hospice triage nurse on the weekends. 

“I fell in love with what I do,” Rolonda explains. “And that’s a testament to the volunteers and the volunteer program itself.”

Each volunteer becomes part of the Delaware Hospice family

Every volunteer at Delaware Hospice goes through eight hours of general orientation, followed by a more specific orientation with the department where they’re volunteering. They get the same background checks and two-step TB testing that a doctor or a nurse would receive. And they’re offered many of the same on-going education opportunities as Delaware Hospice’s regular staff.

While there’s no minimum service-hour requirement that many other organizations have, Delaware Hospice volunteers must keep their paperwork up to date and report their service hours. (To receive reimbursement from Medicare, we’re required to document that 5% of all of our staff hours are provided by volunteers.) Fortunately, Rolonda can count on Purnima to help track service logs and digitize files every week. Rolonda’s counterpart Melody, who oversees the volunteers in Sussex County and at the Delaware Hospice Center, can count on her own volunteer assistant to do the same.

The volunteer program exhibits the same compassionate team-focused approach found throughout Delaware Hospice’s staff. Rolonda often accompanies a new volunteer on their first patient visit to help break the ice, or serves as a source of support to the volunteers themselves. She knows she can call on Mike when a patient needs a visit, or on Beth when she needs to get supplies to a patient’s home. She tracks volunteers through family illnesses and sends birthday cards. And every volunteer is celebrated at a special gathering in April for National Volunteer Month.

Whether someone gives one hour a year or one hundred hours a year, every volunteer second is valued — and adds up to make Delaware Hospice the one-of-a-kind healthcare nonprofit it is.

We always need new volunteers who are willing to share their time and talents with the community! We’ll help you find a volunteer role that fits your skills, schedule, and interests. Apply to volunteer today at!

Even if you’re not sure if hospice/palliative care is right for you, we’re here to help you identify your options. Answering questions is what we do.  After all, a little information can’t hurt!