Hospice of the Central Peninsula is a perfect example of how an organization depends on its volunteers.
Traditionally, hospice's mission is to help dying people and their family meet the transition from life to death and to help those left behind grieve their loss. This process is facilitated with the help of numerous volunteers.
"If we did not have our volunteers we could not have any of the programs we do," said Sue Bezilla, bereavement coordinator for hospice. Hers is one of the only two paid positions with the agency.The remainder of the work done by hospice is made possible by 45 volunteers.
To date, hospice direct care volunteers have provided services, including bereavement support to 244 hospice clients, including persons with HIV and their families. Support volunteers assist in the office and host gatherings, public awareness, education events and fund-raising activities.
No medical training is necessary.
"It can be anybody like you and me walking in off the street. All you need is a compassionate heart," Bezilla said.
Once volunteers go through the 18-hour hospice training session, they can facilitate grief support groups or go on home visits to terminally ill patients and their families.
Volunteers provided 307 hours of family and community bereavement support to grieving persons in Kenai Peninsula communities, in 2001.
Generally, volunteers are individuals who have been through similar losses and feel a need to help others who are going through difficult times.
"They do understand what it is like to lose someone and not have anyone there," she said. "We give them tools to understand that what they're going through is normal."
In addition, Hospice serves the community by providing referral information for persons who are not terminally ill but would benefit from other services and to community members who have dying relatives outside of Alaska.
Hospice also provides the only medical equipment lending loan program in the area and this service is utilized by any community member that has short term need of a variety of medical type devices. All programs and services are offered to community members at no charge in part because the majority of the work done for the organization is by volunteers.
"It's all volunteers," Bezilla said. "(Without volunteers) people would just be struggling thinking they're on their own."
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