BY HALEY EBLIN
Hospice of Michigan has been making a difference, giving back to the community and changing lives since the 1970s. The organization has grown exponentially since then to serving 1,700 patients daily in 48 countries.
The southeast Michigan branch now finds itself in need of volunteers. The branch serves 55 to 60 patients in the Wayne and Downriver area on any given day. The Southeast branch has 25 staff members and about 10 consistent volunteers. More volunteers would allow them to better accommodate and serve their current and future patients.
Hospice of Michigan serves patients close to the end of their lives. They care for patients in the comfort of their homes and treat anyone regardless of ability to pay. The organization is the largest hospice nonprofit in Michigan. Volunteers help through simple gestures such as talking and sharing stories, reading, or sharing quiet moments.
“It doesn’t take any experience in healthcare or hospice to be a volunteer,” Alana Knoppow, the volunteer program manager for the organization’s southeast Michigan branch, said. “You really just need to have an open heart and an open mind to hearing experiences that are completely different than your own.”
The only limitation is that volunteers must be over age 18, although they can volunteer younger if they sign up with a family member over 18.
“We have tons of mother-daughter and husband-wife volunteers. It’s something rewarding to do with your family,” Knoppow said.
Sherry Wagenknect has been volunteering in Downriver with Hospice of Michigan for 25 years. She went to her first patient in 1992. She worked for the organization as a volunteer coordinator until retiring in 2014. She continues to volunteer today.
Wagenknect visits her patients on a weekly basis, often sitting and listening to their life stories.
“It allows me to connect with them on an emotional level,” she says as she reflects upon her volunteer experiences. “I truly feel that I get back so much more than I give.”
“So many of our volunteers say they ‘get more than they give.’ It’s really true,” Knoppow said.
Knoppow has heard many stories and experienced some emotional moments through her time at Hospice of Michigan. She remembers a patient who was near-death and having “horrible nightmares each night where she would wake up screaming.” Hospice of Michigan brought in volunteers to sit with the woman through her remaining nights.
“The woman ended up being able to have a peaceful passing thanks to our volunteers,” Knoppow said. “There are so many joys of life that couldn’t happen without our volunteers. That is why I am passionate about this program and always looking to bring in great people to work with our patients.”
The program strives to shape each volunteer’s experience to accommodate their availability and preferences. Scheduling is flexible and volunteers typically work two to eight hours per month.
Individuals interested in donating their time and talents are encouraged to contact Knoppow at (248) 303-6818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about volunteering with Hospice of Michigan, visit www.hom.org/get-involved.