Below is a story published in the December 2016 issue of Faith in Caring magazine (click here to check out the full issue online) on an outstanding volunteer who has made over 200 gift baskets for hospice patients in the past year! To be added to the mailing list or e-mail distribution list, message us through the contact form on our website or call the Concordia Public Relations Department at 724-352-1571, ext. 8266. Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment below!
“I stood outside the Donnell House, and I was just angry. I had a bad attitude about it. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t know why my husband needed to be there. The whole idea was just wrong to me…” Clara Jean Thomas, a 67-year-old resident of Lone Pine, PA, will tell you she was experiencing the grief stage of anger at that point, even though her husband of 44 years, Bill, was still on this earth. However, within minutes of walking inside the Donnell House – an inpatient hos- pice facility operated by Concordia Hospice of Washington – a calmness came over her that she didn’t believe was possible in her life at that time.
Bill spent 10 days at the House with Jean and a revolving cast of family and friends before he peace- fully passed away. Jean said she believes that, given the circumstances, those 10 days couldn’t have been any better.
“When I left the Donnell House, I told the staff that we were treated so good I would undoubtedly be back to pay it forward,” she said. “I knew right away that I needed to volunteer with this organization that had given so much to me and my family.”
And volunteer she has. Among other things, Jean has done office work, represented the organization at local trade shows, sat and visited with lonely patients, helped with the family bereavement program and more. But Jean found her niche with another volunteer opportunity: making seasonal and holiday gift bags for patients.
It was pretty common knowledge in the area that Jean volunteered with hospice patients, and a local minister named Pastor Max Miller approached her with a bunch of Valentine’s Day cards he was looking to find a home for. Jean took the donation, and the idea, and ran with it.
With help from her sister, Margie Friend, she put together nearly 40 Valentine’s Day gift bags, complete with a card, candy, a craft and more. As one can imagine, the patients loved them.
“When the patients realized these bags were for them, that a stranger cared enough to make this gesture, their faces lit up,” said Volunteer Coordinator Joyce Robinson, MSW. “It’s amazing how something that seems so small can have such an impact.”
After the amazing response the bags received, Jean knew she had to continue. She decided to do Easter baskets for the patients next, but realized quickly that the cost was starting to become more than she bargained for. She humbly asked family and friends for help with a simple Facebook post.
“Good gravy, over $1,500 was raised from that one post,” she said with a laugh.
Not only did she raise a good deal of money, but she received MANY offers to help. That Easter, she had 10 women at her house to put together 40 gift baskets. The same for the 40 summer baskets and 45 autumn baskets they made in October.
Up next are the Christmas stockings filled with goodies, as opposed to baskets. During the Christmas season, Jean will make two deliveries to the Donnell House, actually: 50 live centerpieces for the patients and their families and 50 stockings filled with blankets, scarves, cookies and more.
By January 2017, she and her team of volunteers will have made over 200 gift bags/baskets/stockings for Concordia Hospice of Washington patients in one year.
“I feel that God is leading us,” she said. “If we can just make one day better for the patients and their families, then we’ve accomplished our goal!”
Volunteers make a difference in our patients’ lives every day, and are always needed. For opportunities or more information, call our volunteer coordinator at 724-250-4500. Visit us online at www.ConcordiaHW.org. For those interested in hospice volunteering north of Washington/southern Allegheny Counties, Good Samaritan Hospice, a mission of Concordia, is also in need of volunteers. Call 724-933-8888 or visit www.Good-SamaritanHospice.org.
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