This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and in honor of that, we are launching our newest volunteer recognition idea!
Each month we will be posting a Volunteer Spotlight, which consists of a volunteer interview to gain further insight into the lives of our volunteers and the impact volunteering has had on them, and the impact they've had on us.
To start off, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down outside with a long-standing volunteer of ours, Karen Steinicke.
Before we dive into the interview with Karen, we want to let you know some fun facts about her. Karen loves to golf, saying, "It's all about having fun!" Karen is always smiling and brings positive, fun energy with her wherever she goes.
Karen was a caregiver for her late husband and mentioned that her husband had been in and out of the hospital and that she had made a promise to not put him back in the hospital. The search began for a different option. Karen was introduced to the Alberni Valley Hospice Society and Ty Watson House in 2008 by Registered Nurse Jackie Tooke. Karen spoke kindly of Jackie and how much help she was during the process. "Jackie was the homecare nurse who spoke to us about Ty Watson House. I think at that time, she realized I was exhausted." Ty Watson House provides respite for caregivers in our community who may need a break while ensuring that their loved ones receive care in the comfort of a home environment.
We asked Karen what motivated her to start volunteering with the Alberni Valley Hospice Society, and she said, "I put my husband into Ty Watson House in April of 2008, and I knew one day I wanted to give back and volunteer." Karen holds many different volunteer positions within the organization, but she says it all started with fundraising. Currently, Karen volunteers on the fundraising committee, at Ty Watson House, for events such as the Butterfly Release and the Black Ty Gala.
Along with those volunteer roles, she also assists in selling raffle tickets, doing administrative assistance at the office, and follows up with donors via phone calls. Karen said this about phoning donors to thank them for their donations, "I call donors to thank them for their donations whether it be $10 or a bag of groceries." We want our donors to know that we are continually thankful for what they can give us.
We asked Karen, in her opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does? Karen had this to say regarding Ty Watson House, "Hospice is here to comfort and support families and give TLC to the residents." We couldn't agree more. We are here to support the families in our community by offering them a comfortable home environment for their loved ones.
We asked Karen why it was important to her to volunteer with us and what motivates her to continue doing so? Karen said, "I've always volunteered, through my son's school, for example, with dry grad. I also volunteered for many years with the Bull Dogs, selling tickets being a billet hockey mom." Karen spoke about what motivated her to continue to volunteer, "I enjoy the people I volunteer with and meeting new friends and making friendships."
Karen spoke about the impact that volunteering with us has had on her, "It's given me a better understanding of life and death." When we asked Karen what she learned about herself or others while volunteering with AVHS, she said, "I literally only wish I had the knowledge I have now in the past to help with other family members."
We also asked Karen what surprised her the most about volunteering with AVHS. Karen said, "I find that everyone knows of Ty Watson House through somebody. They can't say enough about the house, and the families can't say enough about the care their loved ones receive."
Karen shared with us a fond memory she has of volunteering with AVHS. "We were sitting with the residents around the kitchen table and listening to their stories. One lady had worked up in the arctic and spoke of her experience with polar bears and how she had to bundle up just to walk a short distance." Hearing the stories that our clients have to tell is one of the joys of volunteering with AVHS. Karen also said this regarding Ty Watson House, "No one leaves without saying thank you to the staff and volunteers. It's the little things that make it a home."
We spoke about encouraging our community to volunteer and how sometimes the work of Hospice can have a stigma attached to it. We asked Karen what she would say to encourage community members to volunteer with AVHS. Karen said, "I would say you would be giving back to your community and giving to a worthwhile cause."
When asked if there was anything else she would like to share about volunteering with AVHS, Karen had this to say, "All I want to share is how fortunate we are to have this special place for palliative care. I hear all the time from those on the phone how lucky the community feels as well."
We are lucky to have had the chance to sit down with Karen and look forward to shining a spotlight on our other wonderful volunteers as well!