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Time, talent and treasure: Volunteering at Stillwater brings teams together

Volunteering is baked into the core of Stillwater Hospice. Volunteers ensure that hospice care is provided seamlessly, whether that’s through greeting families at Hospice Home, tending our campus or by sitting at the bedside of a dying patient through our Watchful Passage program, which ensures that no one dies alone. Volunteers support Stillwater Hospice by freeing up our staff so they can focus on providing the best hospice, palliative and grief care possible.

More than 140 individuals volunteer their time, talent and treasure to carry out Stillwater’s mission of compassion, comfort and guidance through
life’s journey.

And several times a year, businesses in our region send teams to Stillwater’s Homestead Road campus to carry out bigger projects, including painting, washing windows and tending to our eight acres of greenspaces.
And as much as their work benefits our agency, those involved say they end up receiving even more benefits.

“Employees like the opportunity to get to know their co-workers outside the work environment, building comradery,” said Alice Bowers, director of accounting and finance at Fort Wayne Metals, which has sent teams to Stillwater several times in recent years. “These opportunities also help with finding purpose and keeping focus on the truly important things in this crazy, chaotic life. Fort Wayne Metals supports employees  volunteering as they believe in supporting the community that supports them as an employer. The Glaze family values the community and believes in giving back to the community.” 

Bowers added that Stillwater Hospice was selected because of an employee’s crisis.

“I had an employee reach out one evening out of desperation and exhaustion as she and her family were caring for her husband who was in the final stages of his battle with cancer. I sat with her husband through the night while she got some rest,” she said. “From the experience, I felt I was being called to do more so I reached out to Stillwater Hospice. After learning more about the services provided by Stillwater, I knew I
wanted to help where I could. It is a privilege and an honor that the patients and families allow me as a volunteer to be part of their journey. They are impacting my life in so many ways and helping me along my journey.”

Amanda Gerber, marketing director at DWD CPAs and Advisors, said her agency decided to volunteer at Stillwater during the United Way of Allen County’s 2023 Day of Caring project.

“When selecting our volunteer projects, the first thing we do is look at the mission of the organization. Our team selected Stillwater Hospice for our 2023 Day of Caring because we felt it was a service in our community that most people have a need for at one time or another,” Gerber said. “We feel Stillwater
Hospice’s mission of providing compassion, comfort and guidance through life’s journey is essential to supporting our community through difficult times.”

The DWD team helped spruce up the Peggy F. Murphy Community Grief Center, painting hallways and cleaning windows during their Day of Caring experience. 

“Community is one of our firm’s core values – we believe in giving back to the community in which we live,
work and play through leadership, charitable giving and service projects. DWD supports employees through various volunteering activities, whether that be group service-type projects or serving on various boards and committees of local nonprofit organizations. At DWD, we place a strong importance on giving back and supporting our nonprofits through sponsorships and fundraising events as well. We also allow our team to devote time to volunteering during working hours.” Gerber said.

“Volunteer activities are a great way for our team to come together and connect. Employees are able to work with others who they may not work with directly on a day-to-day basis. As supporters of our nonprofit community, it is also a great way to learn of the different services offered by the organization,” she added.

Also in the summer of 2023, eight staff members from Laura Stine Gardens and three Stillwater prairie volunteers planted 128 plants and nine shrubs in under three hours.

Stine said both her company and Stillwater Hospice share “a connecting thread.”

“At Laura Stine Gardens, we often create gardens for clients that serve as spaces where they can connect to nature on their personal journeys of healing. A husband will call us to clean up and maintain a beautiful garden that his recently deceased wife used to take care of. Having spoken to (Therapeutic Programs Coordinator) Vicki Eber, I understand that one way Stillwater facilitates healing space for family and friends is through the prairie and other garden spaces around (the) facility. There is nothing like spending quiet time in nature to soothe our souls. We take several opportunities each season to volunteer as a team. It’s fun to pull everyone together – designers, administrative staff and installation team – take a break from our day-to-day routine and learn about great organizations in our community,” Stine said.

Director of Volunteers Sarah Plasterer said Stillwater Hospice is always looking to partner with companies seeking meaningful volunteering experiences.

“We greatly appreciate the support of community members and organizations in maintaining our outdoor spaces, which play a crucial role in providing a peaceful and serene environment for our patients and their families. Stillwater’s campus has eight acres of landscaping features with a two-acre native Indiana prairie. Groups interested in volunteering for these specific activities are encouraged to contact our volunteer department to schedule and coordinate their participation.

“Having volunteers assist in maintaining the outdoor greenspaces is immensely beneficial to our hospice in several ways. Firstly, it ensures that our outdoor areas are well-maintained, creating a comforting and welcoming environment for our patients and their loved ones. Additionally, it allows our staff to focus on providing essential care and support for our patients, knowing that the grounds are being tended to by dedicated volunteers. Furthermore, the act of volunteering itself fosters a sense of community and connection, enriching the overall experience for everyone involved,” Plasterer noted.

Leslie Friedel, Stillwater Hospice CEO, said she welcomes the support of groups and individuals who choose to give of themselves to Stillwater Hospice and the Peggy F. Murphy Community Grief Center.

“We could not do what we do if we did not have the dedication, love and compassion of our volunteers. So many special moments and stories come from the way our volunteers serve Stillwater Hospice. Whether it is behind the scenes or in the front lines of hospice work, our volunteers provide their most valuable resource in giving their time to support our hospice patients and grief clients.”

Stine said there are many benefits for her employees when they choose to volunteer.

“As a team, we benefit so much from volunteering. We learn about special places in our communities and the connecting threads that we share. It widens our worldview and usually creates fun and memorable moments that we talk about later. Of course, there’s also the “feel good” aspect of doing something good for someone else that’s ingrained in all of us.”

It isn’t only businesses who choose to volunteer with Stillwater Hospice: a team of teens from Aboite Baptist Church has volunteered to do greenscaping cleanup for several years. Youth Pastor Zach Olsen said the teens love serving at Stillwater Hospice.

“I would strongly encourage any group to serve at Stillwater Hospice. Oftentimes, individuals receiving hospice care are overlooked and their families are going through the grieving process of losing a loved one,” Olsen said. “Perhaps there is no greater opportunity to serve someone than in one of their greatest times of need.”