“Do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa of Calcutta
That simple quote from Mother Teresa popped into my head as soon as the barista at the little coffee shop I like in Evanston handed me the cup of cappuccino. Using nothing but swirls of perfectly foamed milk, I saw he’d painted a panda bear on the surface of my drink. When I exclaimed with delight and he smiled back at me, we shared a moment of joy.
The loss of a loved one turns your world upside down and, for a teenager, this loss can be especially bewildering. In my role as a bereavement counselor, I talk with teens that often feel like there is no way out, like the light of their lives has been diminished and they can become immersed in the stress of their own feelings. It is overwhelming for anyone, but especially for a teen finding their place in the world.
Our clinical team cared for a wonderful hospice patient in McHenry County who lived in a little wooden cabin house, directly on the lakefront. Every person on our team said it was a dream house, directly on the water with a sandy beach and a fire pit right outside the front door.
The only thing was, Gabe was dying and alone inside this home. He no longer could even walk down the steep lawn to the lake anymore, not without assistance.
What do volunteers mean to JourneyCare? They are more than people who express a willingness to help or undertake a service. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization.
With over 1,200 volunteers, JourneyCare's Volunteer Team provides extensive support and care to our patients, their loved ones, and staff. JourneyCare offers volunteers the opportunity to share their unique knowledge, experiences, and gifts to make a difference in the lives of those we care for.
“What are your goals?” This is a question we ask all patients who are in our care. What can we do for them? What do they want to achieve? For our patient Fanny, her goal seemed impossible. But at JourneyCare, we never turn a patient away and we always strive to find a way to make their goals happen - even if it takes some creative thinking.
I began my odyssey with JourneyCare some eight months ago, after my fifth experience with hospice for family members. Having recently retired and looking to give back – but uncertain if volunteering at hospice was right for me – I discovered the We Honor Veterans program and found a perfect fit.
Our family's JourneyCare experience was exceptional. We discovered services beyond skilled nursing care, such as art, music, massage and Reiki therapies, pet care, patient visitation and, of course, We Honor Veterans. Many of these integrated services are provided by a host of passionate volunteers.
The We Honor Veterans program recognizes current and former military members for their service and assists them in accessing benefits they are entitled to receive. JourneyCare is one of the only nonprofit hospices in the Chicago area that is recognized by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) as a partner in the We Honor Veterans program. JourneyCare also sponsors a Veteran Volunteers Advisory Council that engages veteran-centric event planning, training, and educational opportunities.
Santa and Mrs. Claus have a special place in their hearts for JourneyCare kids, all year long! And they both are joining JourneyCare to host Christmas in July in the south suburbs this summer!
It all started over a cup of coffee and a conversation I had with Nancy Sullivan. Nancy was ready to volunteer for JourneyCare and be a care companion for our patients. Nancy shared with me that she is the wingman to a very prominent historical figure … Santa!
Nancy explained that her husband, also known as Steve Sullivan, spent much of the past Christmas season visiting our CareCenters and pediatric patients at their homes. It was obvious bringing holiday joy is their mission, and they were happy that JourneyCare gave them the opportunity to help in this way.
Camp Courage is JourneyCare’s bereavement camp and activities for children and teens, ages 6-13, who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
When I took it on, I assumed being a Camp Courage volunteer would be tough. I knew that spending a week with kids ages 6-13 who had recently experienced a significant death would challenge my emotional wherewithal. Given my career working with the juvenile justice system and the skills I developed in that role, I decided I could handle it. But I learned, until you are there, you can’t truly anticipate the reality and rewards of Camp Courage.
My dog Sydney and I have been a pet therapy team with Journey Care for the last two years. When people think of therapy dogs most picture a little pup who will come lay quietly in their lap or on their bed. But when we arrive we can see the surprise in their eyes; Sydney is 80 pounds of labradoodle. Her size makes it easy for patients to reach her from their chair or bed. And people have shared that having a big dog lean on you is like getting a wonderful furry hug.
Most of us will enjoy Memorial Day weekend as the kickoff to summer. But the reason the holiday began has a sobering history, which JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans program will help area senior living communities to remember this year.
Memorial Day pays tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who left home to fight for our country but did not return: to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, and to pay them homage. There are currently more than 21 million military veterans living in our country - but this is not their day.