Beverly Thomas has been a Riverside Hospice volunteer since 1999, calling it one of the most fulfilling things a person can do.

"It's so rewarding," Thomas said. "You get more out of it when you give of yourself."

And now Thomas, along with her fellow volunteers, are calling on more people in the community to get involved.

Riverside Tappahannock Hospice is a not-for-profit, Medicare-certified agency providing compassionate care to patients of all ages who are facing a life-limiting illness.

Volunteers are an integral part of the Hospice team, providing a range of services which may include companionship to a patient, respite for a caregiver or administrative help in the Hospice office.

As a hospice volunteer, Thomas has developed a close bond with the families she has assisted through the care she has helped provide over the years. When she is out in the community and encounters families she has assisted she is greeted warmly, like she's part of their family.Hospice Volunteer, Beverly Thomas

Frances Bernard, volunteer support services coordinator for Riverside Tappahannock Hospice, described volunteers as special, compassionate people.

"Riverside Hospice program's mission is to care for others as we would care for our loved ones. Hospice focuses on comfort not cure," Bernard said. "Hospice is not about giving up hope but redefining hope. Hope for comfort, family time, quality and dignity of life."

"It takes a special person to be a Hospice volunteer and it gives them a sense of deep satisfaction to know they have made a difference in the lives of others," Bernard said. Our volunteers say they feel a calling for this, and that it is the most rewarding thing they've ever done."

Most often, Riverside Tappahannock Hospice volunteers are family members of those who have received Hospice services in the past.

They describe Hospice as the "best thing that can happen to you at the worst time of your life," Bernard said.

And families are an important component of Riverside Tappahannock Hospice care, to include ensuring the family is taken care of as well as the patient, Bernard said. A bereavement coordinator follows the family of the deceased for 13 months after their loss with cards, invitations to support groups, events and other resources for their grieving.

Hospice volunteer training encompasses two four-hour sessions held at the volunteer's convenience. These training sessions can take place in the evenings, on weekends or other times depending on the volunteer's schedule.

Requirements to become a volunteer include completion of the eight hour training, a criminal background check and a test for tuberculosis and a flu vaccine.

Riverside Tappahannock Hospice serves the Northern Neck and counties of Essex, King and Queen and King William.

"You just feel good when you come out of there," Thomas said. "You can be a big help for that time of their life. It's a very rewarding volunteer program and we do need more volunteers.

For more information about volunteering in the Riverside Tappahannock Hospice program, call 804-443-6130.

Published: May 1, 2015