Salute to Volunteers: Current Articles: South Florida Hospital News | #hospice | #elderly | #seniors
VITAS Healthcare – Broward County
A VITAS Healthcare volunteer for more than 12 years, Alfred Sasiadek still remembers his first patient interaction. “The man was an opera enthusiast, so every time I visited him, I would bring a CD of a different opera to listen to with him,” Sasiadek says.
Since then, Sasiadek has volunteered in almost every VITAS setting, from hospital units to nursing homes to patients’ homes. “Some of the patients don’t have any family to turn to,” he says. “It’s the feeling of giving back that keeps me going.”
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Sasiadek has transitioned to VITAS’ ProActive Call to Action, an initiative where volunteers check in by phone regularly with socially isolated hospice patients and their families/caregivers.
“There is a need for volunteers, and there has been a need since I started,” he says. “I’ve developed really great relationships with patients and caregivers. Some even have my number saved in their phones.
As a licensed mental health counselor, Pamela Orozco spends most days volunteering for South Florida organizations, including VITAS Healthcare. She got her start in 2018, visiting patients in their homes, decorating their rooms, and developing meaningful relationships.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Orozco transitioned to calling patients instead. Little did she know it would become one of her greatest joys.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to connect with the patients in the same way,” Orozco says. “But after I gave it a try, I realized I absolutely love it. Just last week, I had contact with a family member, and she was so, so sad and needed someone to talk to. We stayed on the phone for an hour, where she reminisced about her mom and cried. I felt so blessed to be the person there for her.”
VITAS Healthcare – Palm Beach County
Hilda Estabridis joined VITAS Healthcare in January 2020 as an administrative volunteer, initially assisting office employees with filing and other office tasks. When the COVID-19 lockdown began just months later, her helping hand was needed elsewhere.
Estabridis quickly trained to be a part of VITAS’ ProActive Call to Action, an initiative where volunteers check in regularly by phone with socially isolated hospice patients and their families/caregivers. Since then, she has spent her time calling patients and their caregivers, and picking up office supplies to help VITAS administrators with various tasks.
“Despite the pandemic’s restrictions, Hilda has continued to be a dedicated and loyal member of our volunteer team,” says VITAS Volunteer Manager Gayle Stevens.
Joyce Costello is an administrative volunteer for VITAS Healthcare and a member of the Loving Hands group at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Lake Worth, where she knits and crochets comfort items for hospice patients.
“This is how I originally met Joyce eight years ago,” Volunteer Manager Gayle Stevens says. “We were blessed the day she came to my office with a large bag of knitted afghans to donate. I invited her in to meet the other volunteers in my office, [and] it was then that Joyce said she would like to also help in the office. The rest is history.”
COVID-19 hasn’t stopped Costello from lending a helping hand either.
“She meets us in the office parking lot each week, where we provide her with a box of supplies to take home to assemble into admission packets,” Stevens explains. “Joyce’s dedication has enabled us to continue.”
VITAS Healthcare – Palm Beach County
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christiane Ulvert visited hospice patients at the VITAS Inpatient Hospice Unit at North Shore Medical Center with her special furry friend: her dog Paprika.
As VITAS Paw Pals® volunteers, the unstoppable pair offered a welcomed distraction for patients, bringing smiles and helping them feel a little less lonely. Paw Pals animals and their owners—like Ulvert and Paprika—are trained to provide comfort, stimulate memories, encourage activity, and provide unconditional love.
The duo has volunteered for VITAS for four years and represents VITAS Healthcare at the Miami Relay for Life, an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. More recently, Ulvert and Paprika represented the Paw Pals program at the grand opening of the VITAS Inpatient Unit at MedSquare in Kendall.
“Christiane is an outstanding VITAS Paw Pals volunteer,” says her volunteer manager.
Judy Billing was gearing up to visit patients as a VITAS volunteer—and then COVID-19 hit. Though in-person volunteering ground to a halt, Billing was determined to remain an active advocate for patients.
That’s how she became one of the first volunteers for VITAS’ Volunteer ProActive Call to Action, an initiative that trains volunteers to check in regularly by phone with socially isolated hospice patients, and their families and caregivers. Since mid-2020, these VITAS volunteers have made more than 200,000 phone calls to patients.
One year later, Billing continues to contact caregivers. She goes above and beyond by asking to take on additional caregivers who are in need of a check in-call.
“Judy has been a patient advocate and always reports to her team,” according to her volunteer manager.
MorseLife Health System
During the past 11 years Sharon Levine-Shein has become indispensable in maintaining the infrastructure that allows MorseLife Health System to deliver more than 50,000 nutritious and kosher meals annually through its Meals-On-Wheels program. The impacts of COVID-19 have increased the need for meals by more than 20% and Sharon has been instrumental in the pivot from in-home deliveries to weekly phone calls and doorstep deliveries. Her responsibilities include updating records with clients’ names, ages, companions, and their medical condition. She regularly reports any change in physical condition or concern for clients’ well-being so that professional nursing staff is assigned to access the home situation. Sharon is also involved in all MorseLife food insecurity events and helps deliver pantry items from the MorseLife’s kosher food pantry. Providing vulnerable seniors with emotional and physical sustenance, Sharon is on the front lines ensuring that no senior goes without.
Holy Cross Health
Since 2006 Cheryl Lamb has proved to be an invaluable volunteer at Holy Cross Health serving more than 25,000 hours. From volunteering at the gift shop, working on special projects, serving on the gala committee and co-chairing the event, Cheryl has donated her time and energy to various projects and in departments throughout the hospital. At the Michael & Dianne Bienes Comprehensive Cancer Center at Holy Cross Health she has volunteered her time assisting nurses and tending to patients with compassion, kindness and empathy to ensure their comfort. Cheryl is also a member of the “Girlfriend’s Club,” the group that has donated funds as lifetime, founding members in support of the Dorothy Mangurian Comprehensive Women’s Center at the Holy Cross Healthplex. The pandemic has proven the importance of volunteers, and Cheryl quickly stepped up to serve at the hospital’s vaccine center. Whatever Cheryl is asked to help with, she does so with a genuine smile. Cheryl’s dedication to upholding the core values of Holy Cross Health is appreciated by all who have been fortunate enough to work with her over the years.
Broward Health Imperial Point
Ann Moslowitz feels at home at Broward Health Imperial Point. It might be because her mother was a volunteer in 1984. It might be because Moslowitz worked for 26 years in various jobs at Broward Health. It might be because she has served as a volunteer for 10 years.
“It’s difficult to choose just one thing that I love about volunteering,” she said. “I love helping others.”
As president of the hospital’s auxiliary and pre-pandemic, Moslowitz managed about 60 volunteers who worked 10 shifts, five days a week.
“As volunteers, we step in as needed. We manage the gift shop, make lab runs and escort patients,” Moslowitz said. “If patients are nervous, we do our best to calm them down. I have the best group of volunteers.”
Moslowitz leads volunteer quarterly meetings, where they plan, play games and raise money for the hospital, saying “Everything we do, goes back to the hospital.”
These days, Moslowitz is keeping busy helping others in her Cypress Bend condominium and caring for her Tabby cat.
“All my volunteers want to come back to the hospital,” she said. “We are ready, willing and able.”
Memorial Hospital Pembroke
With nearly 350 hours accumulated in an eight-month period leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Florida, Allia Ramsook was an active volunteer in the nursing administration department. Her ongoing efforts providing clerical support did not go unnoticed by those she worked with.
“Allia, words cannot adequately express the gratitude that the Nursing Administration department and I wish to convey,” said Department Secretary Amy San Martin-Santos. “Please know that your volunteerism is recognized, appreciated, valued, and cherished.”
Ramsook stayed in touch with her mentor, San Martin-Santos, during the pandemic and volunteered to work from home. San Martin-Santos ultimately recommended Ramsook for a part-time position as a health unit coordinator, a job the Broward College business major began in February. Part of her role is to work with patients on their discharge paperwork. “I’m in patient rooms, occupied, and on my feet. I enjoy the work,” said Ramsook.
Memorial Regional Hospital South
After retiring from a nearly three-decade career in the healthcare industry, Jacqueline Joseph spent much of 2017 traveling. While enjoyable, it soon became clear that she wanted to use her time and knowledge helping others.
Memorial Regional Hospital South was close to home and she soon settled into a volunteer role working with the food and nutrition staff. “I like to be around, do things, work, and contribute. I take pride in what I do and am happy to do whatever is needed,” said Joseph.
A member of the committee that raised money to provide teens volunteer opportunities, Joseph also assisted with data entry, office work, and patient care before the pandemic.
“Jacqueline is an outstanding volunteer who helped wherever needed,” said Ana Martin, a human resources representative at Memorial Regional Hospital South. “She was always very efficient and professional.”
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital
Like many volunteers, Marsha Hogg feels it’s important to give back in her community. Familiar with healthcare after a lengthy nursing career, she was part of the first group of volunteers when Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital opened as a stand-alone facility in 2011.
In the time leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hogg made the first-floor resource center a warm and welcoming area for families to find comfort during anxious times. “It’s a calming environment that can help people relax. The therapy dog, Nutmeg, has a bed there and there are places to eat, couches with blankets, toys for the kids, soft music, and cookies,” said Hogg.
Hogg is anxious to get back to her sanctuary once coronavirus restrictions are lifted. “The last year has been tough on the elderly. With nowhere to go, you can feel isolated and lonely. Being in the resource area made my week and it will be great to reconnect with friends.”
Memorial Hospital Miramar
Not even her own battle with cancer has slowed the volunteer efforts of Nilda Ramos, a former nurse that has given her time and talents to Memorial Healthcare System since 2010.
A talented seamstress, Ramos recently made more than 300 themed hats for nurses to sell as a fundraiser for co-workers fighting cancer. She has also made caps and clothes for babies that pass away and was part of the team that sewed nearly 200 sleeping bags to give to the homeless. “My mom worked at Lord & Taylor and I learned to sew while serving as her translator,” said Ramos, who has also fixed the clothes of fellow cancer patients.
“Nilda has continued to work behind the scenes throughout the pandemic,” said Veronica Palmer, Memorial Hospital Miramar’s manager of volunteer services. “She is one of our most beloved volunteers.”
Memorial Hospital West
Being hospitalized is a stressful situation for anyone, especially now that COVID-19 has kept family and friends from visiting patients in-person. Into that void is where volunteer Rafael Esquivel has an impact, sharing conversation, prayers, and comfort to those who may be confused, frightened, and in need of hope.
Offering his own brand of spiritual care through telemedicine since the pandemic began, Esquivel uses an education from the “University of Life” and an all-faith approach during the online visits that provide purpose in his own life. “I’m overwhelmed to be allowed to do this and learn something new every day.”
Esquivel has been involved in spiritual care since 2011, accumulating more than 5,000 service hours along the way. He “hasn’t skipped a beat,” according to Dalia Inman, the manager of volunteer services at Memorial Hospital West, since the coronavirus made his daily visits virtual. “Rafael is an exceptional human being who demonstrates what giving back is with every bit of himself. We’re very fortunate to have him in the Memorial family.”
Memorial Regional Hospital
While volunteers haven’t been in hospitals for more than a year, that doesn’t mean they weren’t ready and willing to be on-site in the fight against COVID-19. In early January, an area of the conference center at Memorial Regional Hospital was converted to a vaccination site and volunteers were called in to ensure the process ran smoothly.
“Our volunteers assisted the clinical staff and covered every shift at the vaccination pod in Hollywood,” said David Reinmund, director of volunteer services at Memorial Regional and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospitals. “They provided a warm, welcoming environment and plenty of extra smiles to people excited about the opportunity to be inoculated.”
Volunteers in the vaccination area included: Brenda Aisenberg, Carol Bartley, George Beren, Pat Cummings, Carol Durocher, Leonard Finver, Fran Fletcher, Rupert French, Nancy Green, Duane Hart, Mary Hart, Marsha Hogg, Kenneth Iovino, Hazel Kalleta, Liz Kaufman, Jim Lamey, Lynn Lamey, Marteen Longo, Pat Martin, Sally McGee, Lorraine O’Connor, Ligia Pagan, Leslie Parish, Merrylee Parnes, Carol Penn, Margaret Reydel, Richard Russo, Virginia Sadolf, Arlene Seidner, Vicki Weber, and Patty Wood.