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Volunteer David Sherman: Always watching out for others

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When David Sherman retired from civilian service with the U.S. Navy, 150 people signed the framed picture of the facility where he worked for 41 years, attesting to the friends he made and the impact he had.

Now, David can add “Homeland volunteer” to a life full of accomplishment, athletics, and service. Every Thursday afternoon, he is a fixture in the Homeland hallways and gathering spaces, helping residents play dominoes or take a safe walk.

He also volunteers for Homeland Hospice, putting the monthly newsletter in envelopes for mailing. His volunteer service is an extension of his giving nature and a career devoted to protecting people and documents.

“That’s why I’m in security, to help people be safe,” he says.

David is a Harrisburg native, with a life that has taken many interesting turns. At age 2 and a half, he was diagnosed with hearing loss. For 15 years, he received speech and hearing therapy, learning to lipread from a Harrisburg therapist.

After graduating from William Penn High School in 1966, David learned sign language at Gallaudet University and attended the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Center, in Johnstown. After getting a couple of jobs in Harrisburg, his parents were delighted and proud when he went to the Washington, DC, area and got a job with the U.S. Navy.

That was in 1971, the beginning of his 41-year career at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division in Bethesda, MD. He spent 27 of those years in security and document control. Sometimes, his work was classified. He was responsible for picking up documents at the Pentagon for years.

Throughout David’s life, Harrisburg’s Jewish community, and Kesher Israel Congregation, also known as KI, have been constants. He has served on the KI board and had his bar mitzvah in the former synagogue in uptown Harrisburg on July 4, 1960.

In 2022, after the congregation moved to a beautifully renovated new home in Harrisburg’s Riverside neighborhood, David celebrated his 75th birthday with a Kiddush party. As with his bar mitzvah, he received the Aliyah – or call – to read the Torah in Hebrew. Today, David helps provide security at the new synagogue’s entry.

Another thread in David’s life is athletics. In high school, he lettered in cross country and track. He won ribbons for first and second place in the Navy 3K run and walk.

“The walk, I did in 19 minutes,” he says. “I was younger.”

He still runs, winning five ribbons in past Homeland Hospice 5K and Memory Walks and hoping for another at this year’s event on Oct. 22, as long as a bothersome knee heals up. In Bethesda, he also played right field for a softball team that won two championships, including one year when he won MVP.

Even when he lived in Maryland, he would come home on weekends to play basketball at the Jewish Community Center. He also played touch football for a Navy team and flag football for the JCC, where his best friend said he played the best defense.

David is also involved with the Hearing Loss Association of America. For 10 years, he served as treasurer for the organization’s 1,000-member Montgomery County, MD, chapter. He has traveled to 25 association conventions, helping provide security. He attended many of those conventions with his late wife, Deborah Beauregard Sherman, whom he met in a hearing-loss support group.

David retired from the Navy in 2012 and moved back to Harrisburg in 2018. Since 2019, he has filled his days with volunteering – delivering Meals on Wheels Friday mornings, helping at Homeland Center on Thursday afternoons. On Sunday mornings, you’ll find him at the Dauphin County Library System’s East Shore Area Library, where he set a personal record of 92 books shelved in three hours.

For a time, COVID restrictions kept David from coming into Homeland, but Homeland Activities Director Aleisha Arnold invited him back after they were lifted. Now, every Thursday, Aleisha gets a text from David to check that his volunteer shift is still on.

“The residents say how nice he is and warm to them,” Aleisha says. “He’s very pleasant. He’s very relatable to them. He’s very dedicated.”

David returns the compliment.

“I really like it here,” he says. “I’m very happy. Aleisha is happy for me to help people.”

Finding Creative Methods for Channeling Grief: Meet Amy Zecha

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amy zecha with a pillow she sewedWith a stitch of a needle or stroke of a paintbrush, Amy Zecha of Harrisburg is finding creative methods for channeling her grief following the death of her mother Angelyn. With the help of Homeland Hospice’s bereavement program, Amy has found productive ways to discuss her grief and reconnect with art and crafts, which she has always loved. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

In April, Amy connected with Homeland Hospice when her mother was in the final stages of her battle with kidney disease. As her illness progressed, Amy knew they needed the extra care and support only a hospice program could provide.

“From the beginning, the Homeland team listened to my mother’s needs,” Amy says. “Being seen and heard during this challenging time was so important to my mom.”

At the time, Angelyn was living at Bethany Village in Mechanicsburg. Homeland’s hospice services are available any place an individual calls home. The Homeland team worked with the staff at Bethany Village to provide comprehensive care for Angelyn, which brought Amy comfort during a difficult time.

Following the death of her mother, Amy began bereavement counseling with Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, lead bereavement counselor for Homeland Hospice. Working with a counselor who specializes in helping people deal with grief, helped Amy in ways she never imagined.

“While I was grieving the loss of my mother, I realized I had unresolved grief over the death of my brother,” Amy says. “Counseling lifted a weight off of my shoulders.”

Homeland Hospice provides bereavement support through phone calls, mailings, one-on-one consultations and support groups up to 13 months after the death of a loved one. Support groups offer self-awareness, healing, helping others, a sense of community and coping skills. Bereavement support is available to the bereaved of Homeland’s patients as well as anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

paintings and drawings by amy zechaAs the weight of grief lifted for Amy, her creativity returned. Amy has begun painting, drawing, sewing and knitting again. Her mother taught her many of these skills and encouraged her to pursue them as a child.

“Over the past few years, I didn’t have energy to focus on my creative pursuits,” Amy adds. “I’m productive again and enjoying every minute of it.”

Amy’s creations include funny paintings and greeting cards with puns, which remind her of the wonderful sense of humor shared by both her mother and brother.

This fall, Amy became a Homeland Hospice volunteer. She is creating memory pillows for families who have lost loved ones. The pillows are frequently made of articles of clothing worn by the deceased family member. Amy’s first memory pillow was created for a woman who recently lost her husband. The pillow is made from his ties.

“Sewing meant so much to my mother,” Amy says. “I am so happy I can help others while using a skill she taught me.”

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

The Art of Creativity During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Allie Lombardi Brings Color to Our World

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When the world shut down last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness and isolation crept into many of our lives. Our sense of community compelled us to reach out to those in need at a time when face-to-face contact was not permitted. Our methods of volunteering were changing, but our compassion for others remained the same. During this period of darkness, Allie Lombardi picked up her phone and paintbrushes to bring color to our world.

Allie is a high school senior in Providence, Rhode Island. For 14 years she has been a competitive dancer in ballet, jazz and contemporary dance. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Allie’s dance classes were cancelled, giving her time to focus on her other passions of volunteering and art.

Allie connected with Homeland Hospice through VolunteerMatch, an online service that connects individuals with causes and organizations. Allie’s grandmother is a nurse and her sister is studying nursing in college. In addition, her grandmother has volunteered with her local hospice, making a connection to Homeland an ideal match for Allie. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

“I was excited to connect with Homeland,” Allie says. “I had read about power of art therapy and thought I could help.”

Allie created 12 watercolor paintings of serene scenes with peaceful colors to illuminate a room. She sent the paintings to Homeland where they will be available to hospice patients. In the coming weeks, volunteers will work directly with patients to allow them to select a piece to display. After a month, the paintings will be rotated among patients to allow them to enjoy another work of art.

“We are delighted by Allie’s art,” says Laurie Murry, volunteer coordinator for Homeland Hospice. “Her beautiful paintings lift the spirits of our patients and their families.”

Hospice patients often feel a loss of control over their lives. Selecting a painting is a small, but powerful step in helping them feel a sense of satisfaction. This step also gives a local volunteer an opportunity to close the circle on Allie’s project, which began several months ago and more than 350 miles away.

While Allie will never meet the recipients of her artwork or see the smiles it brings to their faces, she knows her time and dedication to this project makes a difference.

“The project has brought me so much joy,” Allie says. “It feels good knowing I’ve been able to help someone during this time.”

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For more information about Homeland Hospice and volunteer opportunities, call (717) 221-7890.

 

Homeland Hospice’s Soup & Casserole Program

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By Laurie Murray, Volunteer Coordinator for Homeland Hospice

The end-of-life journey is a time when extra comfort and support is needed as patients and their families are often fatigued physically, emotionally and spiritually. A hospice caregiver is often faced with situations that can change daily or even hourly. Frequent medications, dressing changes, safety, toileting, feeding, and emotional support easily fills their day, and in many cases, their night too. In addition, there are situations in which a spouse or caregiver may never have prepared a meal. The patient is the one who always handled that daily task.

Homeland Hospice has found that for many patients and their families a simple home-cooked soup or casserole that can be taken from the freezer, heated, and enjoyed is a huge blessing. It is comfort for the belly! The meals are prepared by volunteers either working independently or as a group. Before Covid-19, our focus was having church groups prepare the meals. Now, there are people looking for opportunities to serve from their homes, so we are seeing more individual cooks becoming involved.

Some of our volunteers simply cook a little extra when they are preparing a meal for their own family. Church group often use the left-overs from a community or church meal to make a yummy dish or soup.

The meals are prepared in 8×8 aluminum pans, wrapped in aluminum foil, placed in a gallon freezer bag, labeled with the ingredients and reheating instructions and frozen. Volunteers then either contact Laurie to pick up a meal from them or the they are welcome to delivers it to the Homeland Hospice office. The meals are stored in a freezer at the office until it is delivered to a patient by hospice staff or by another volunteer, a “Casserole Courier.”

The meals do not remain in the freezer for long! With a census of over 200 patients, twenty meals can disappear very quickly. We are always accepting new cooks to assist with this program.

The Soup & Casserole Program is just another “extra” that is provided by Homeland Hospice. It helps in bring comfort to our patients, but also alleviates some of the stress from family caregivers.

Mary Beth, a faithful volunteer making soups and casseroles stated, “I’m so happy to help. All of the events of the world have made me feel helpless. This opportunity has once again made me feel helpful.”

My Volunteer Journey

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By Lisa Wolff, Homeland Hospice Volunteer

About 6 years ago, I was fortunate to be able to retire from a long career as a health care lawyer. After I retired I had to figure out what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I decided I wanted to work directly with patients instead of working at a desk. While it was definitely not easy to find such a job without any experience and with my “maturity” eventually I was hired as a nurse’s aide in the Neurology Unit at Harrisburg Hospital. This was great because they provided the training I needed for the job. Being a nurse’s aide was about as different from a legal desk job as any job could be! It was fast paced, hands on, and never a dull moment! It provided me the opportunity to meet all types of people, from all walks of life and many cultures, to provide hands-on care and comfort, and to be a part of the patients’ and their families’ lives for a short period of time. Often, patients were so grateful for my small service that it was overwhelming to me. I learned so much about people and the world in general. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

After several years as a nurse’s aide, I decided it was time to retire more permanently so that I could spend more time with my family. I knew I still wanted to work with patients and I thought volunteering for a hospice organization might fit the bill. After doing some research about the Homeland organization, I met with Laurie and was very impressed by her leadership skills and her vision for the volunteer team. I became a volunteer patient companion.

In a little over a year of volunteering with Homeland Hospice I have had many different kinds of experiences. Some patients are just as sweet and pleasant as can be and have no difficulty talking with me about a variety of subjects. Others are not able to communicate verbally or have significant hearing loss. Sometimes, I feel uncomfortable because a patient is not able to communicate and I don’t have a lot to say (I don’t really feel it is appropriate to talk about myself and my life too much). Other times, I feel concerned because, based on my nurse’s aide experience, I have identified a possible care giving need. In these instances, I either figure it out myself, such as reading to a patient who is nonverbal (if they seem to like that) or I call on Laurie. Laurie is a great resource! She always has good ideas when I am seemingly stuck! Also, if I have a care giving issue she will very quickly get a response from the patient care team.

One time I had a patient who was known in her facility as a very grouchy lady. Every time I visited, she was in a bad mood and had a list of complaints about her condition or her environment that she wanted me to address. (I realized that if I were in her place, I would probably have similar complaints, but I know that voicing such complaints is not always the best way to win friends). I would chat with her and play gin rummy (using her rules) and after a while she would become pleasant and I would be able to coax her to take a walk down the hall. Invariably, when I left she would ask for a hug, which I gladly gave. Just helping to make a patient a little happier for a short while is my goal.

Volunteering for Homeland Hospice is so rewarding. I must say, however, that sometimes I really don’t want to make a visit. It can seem too challenging to think of things to say, or deal with someone who is nasty, non-verbal or hearing impaired. However, I have to laugh at myself once again because every time I leave a patient and get into my car to go back to my nice life, I am filled with gratitude about the visit I just had. I hope I make some small difference in the patients’ day. I know they have made a difference in mine.

I am bummed about the pandemic. I really miss interacting with the patients. I learn so much from them and I cannot imagine how difficult it is for them and their caregivers to be so isolated from social interaction. I do write cards, I can only hope they help a little.


Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Volunteering is a component of Homeland’s holistic approach to health care. Homeland Hospice also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

The Value of Being A Hospice Volunteer

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By Lewis E. Silverman

My father-in-law died three years ago in June. The final weeks leading up to his passing were particularly challenging in terms of providing for his needs. Thankfully, my wife and I were able to find and engage the services of an area hospice. I came away with a deep appreciation of the passion and commitment that it takes to work for a hospice – not only as a paid caregiver, i.e., nurse, social worker, but also as a volunteer. It was through that experience that I was lead to become a hospice volunteer.

To be an effective hospice volunteer, one must have a genuine desire to give comfort, love and care to patients and their families during the end of life period. As a volunteer, I am acutely aware that my words, actions, and deeds will have a tremendous impact on the lives of the patients I am serving.

In order to do my job correctly, I must clearly understand and remain cognizant of my actions. It is not about me. The “I factor” must be removed from the equation. Once that is understood, we are better equipped and prepared to serve those who are in need.

Our presence is aimed at providing the most comfortable and compassionate end of life experience possible. Our value cannot be overstated. As volunteers, we are looked at as ordinary members of the community. For patients, families, and friends, this provides an extremely high comfort level. Because of that relationship, oftentimes we connect with patients on a deep, personal level. It is through this connection that we are able to provide insight to other care team members regarding the overall impact of the care that is being provided. Because we are viewed as “one of them,” patients and their families will sometimes share bits of information that they might be hesitant to share with other members of the care team.

A part of what makes our presence valuable is the unique life perspective and personality that we provide. There are similarities among us that serve as a true indicator of our effectiveness:

  1. We have an abundance of compassion towards those who are on the end-of-life journey.
  2. We have a deep-seeded respect for the life they have led.
  3. We have a clear understanding of our personal limits. We are there to listen to them and not make it about us.
  4. We have the ability to listen and be supportive regardless of what we see and hear.

The role of a hospice volunteer is not a bed of roses. However, what we experience will last a lifetime. It will enrich not only our lives, but all those who we encounter through our efforts. The kindness and hard work that we share will bring peace to our patients while planting the seeds of purpose and value in our own lives.

So, what are you waiting for?

Complete the online volunteer application form right now, download a volunteer application form and mail/email to us, or contact Laurie Murry, Volunteer Coordinator, at 717-221-7890.

Celebrating the Gifts of Hospice Volunteers

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Homeland Hospice Honors its Volunteers during
National Volunteer Week, April 19 – 25

thank you to the homeland hospice volunteersNational Volunteer Week provides the opportunity to recognize the millions of Americans who provide volunteer service in communities across the country. At Homeland Hospice, 42 trained volunteers are giving selflessly to help people live as fully as possible, even when facing a serious or life-threatening illness. Even now, when our volunteers can’t visit patients and their families in the home, or provide administrative assistance in the Homeland office, they are helping our staff meet needs by making phone calls, sending cards, making protective face masks, and preparing bereavement mailings from their homes.

“Given that hospice volunteers accompany people along the journey of a serious or life-threatening illness, they serve an essential part in enabling Homeland Hospice to offer the best care possible,” Debbie Klinger, Director of Hospice, says. “By sharing their time, energy, and expertise, our volunteers bring compassion and caring to the lives of those in need and we celebrate them not only during National Volunteer Week but every day.”

It is federally mandated under Medicare that five percent of all patient care hours be provided by trained volunteers, reflecting the vital role that volunteers play in the provision of care. But even if the integration of volunteers was not required, we would still consider them critical members of our team. Our community is a better, more compassionate place because of their service.

homeland hospice volunteer cardsAs hospice staff and volunteers, the most we can do is provide an opportunity for our patients to have the best deaths possible for them. Laurie Murry, Volunteer Coordinator said, “while everyone else is running away from end-of-life, our staff and volunteers are marching forward saying, ‘We know what you’re going through. We want to help.’”

For those interested in learning more about hospice or volunteer opportunities, please contact Laurie at 717-409-8882 or lmurry@homelandhospice.org.

Great Moments are Often Found in the Small Moments

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By Laurie Murry, Homeland Hospice Volunteer Coordinator

patients enjoying playing cards

Homeland Hospice has a patient who complains about the facility meals, her roommate, the temperature of her room, those who are caring for her, and more–a difficult person to please. But she enjoys playing cards, so we arranged for a volunteer to visit and play cards with her. Once a week, for an hour or so, this patient is a different person–pleasant, and engaging, whether she wins the card games or not.

Another patient 95-years old has resided at a skilled nursing facility for many years. She is alert and oriented, but blind, and stays in bed with her eyes closed because light bothers her. She is not able to be a part of activities, community dining, or other social interactions with residents. Kneeling at the side of her bed (so she could be heard) our volunteer listens as she shares stories from her childhood, one about a tragic train accident that happened in her community while she was young. The volunteer learned this patient has a strong Christian faith and knows music can have a soothing and uplifting affect. She plays classic hymns from her cell phone while our patient smiles and comfortably falls asleep.

volunteer bringing the outdoors inResiding at home with her daughter due to her illness, a third patient becomes short of breath easily, restricting her movement. On a beautiful March day, the sun shines brightly and temperatures are in the mid-’50s, but our patient is unable to get outside. Her volunteer decides to bring the outdoors in and helps her plant a flower from the comfort of her armchair.

Homeland Hospice volunteers meet people where they are and value them for who they are … it’s not about wanting people to be a certain way. Serving is about appreciating the great moments that can be found by helping to create small moments–sitting quietly with a person who may be sound asleep, holding someone’s hand, reading a short story, or taking a patient “out of their room” or situation through conversation or a ride in their wheelchair. By giving without the expectation of receiving … and weaving compassion, heart, kindness, and vulnerability into our lives, we get to serve others, and leave our fingerprints on the world.

There are many ways you can volunteer and serve along-side our staff. Directly being involved with patients can occur through companionship, staying with a patient while a family member runs errands, sitting bedside during the last hours of a patient’s life, or driving a patient to an appointment. You can involve a trained and certified pet in your visits … patients love to see animals! Volunteers can also share time with a bereaved family member after a patient has passed away offering friendship and support during the grieving process. If your skills lie more in the administrative arena, assisting us in the office to help “tame” the mountains of paperwork and mailings is always appreciated. Should you have a special skill that you would like to share, such as nail care, cutting hair, yard work, dog grooming, cooking, etc., let us know and we’ll discuss ways it may be added to improving our patients’ quality of life.

Homeland volunteers receive an initial orientation, that can be done in the comfort of your home, at your own pace, as a self-study. On-going training, support and guidance is provided, as well as, opportunities to meet and fellowship with other volunteers on the team.  As a Homeland volunteer, you can pick your own schedule, serving once a month or a couple of times a week, and in the location of your choosing, such as near your home or workplace.

We would love to have you as part of our volunteer team! For more information on how you might become involved, contact Laurie Murry, Volunteer Coordinator, at lmurry@homelandhospice.org or 717-409-8882.