Accomplishing the Extraordinary Through Extraordinary Volunteers

St. Joseph’s Hospice could not exist without its remarkable and talented volunteers. Volunteers are the fire that keeps our engine running and help with almost everything – from office administration, kitchen support, direct care, volunteer visiting, to fundraising, and so much more.

Our volunteers often share their stories with us, spontaneously and through structured feedback. Each has a different story about why they became involved with Hospice. What St. Joseph’s Hospice appreciates about its volunteers are not just the unique individual skills they bring to the table, but also the selfless friendship and dedication that provides light, hope and happiness to the lives of others.

I first met two such wonderful people – Eileen Parker and Barry Johnson – in 2012 when I started working for St. Joseph’s Hospice as the Campaign Director. Early in my role, Eileen and I sat down for coffee and a chat. That first, intimate encounter solidified for me that I had joined the right organization.

Barry Johnson and Eileen Parker

Eileen Parker is one of our longest serving, dedicated volunteers, supporting St. Joseph’s Hospice, and before that Hospice of London, for more than 30 years. It was only much later that I learned of Eileen’s rich history with hospice.

Volunteers founded hospice more than 30 years ago and continue to play a vital role in every area of our work. Eileen was one of those founding volunteers. As a strong advocate, Eileen was a member of the inaugural Board of Directors for Hospice of London. She took a lead role on the very first Gala fundraising event, understanding the importance of engaging the community in support of Hospice. For many years, she journeyed with many of Hospice’s palliative clients as a volunteer visitor, spending time with them every week to the end of their lives. It takes a special person to volunteer in this capacity and for many years Eileen helped many people in this vital role.

As one of our earliest volunteers, the staff team relied heavily on Eileen’s work; so much so, some newly hired staff members thought she was a paid employee. She became a welcomed, constant presence in our former house on Talbot Street.

When not enjoying the sunny south during winter months, Eileen still comes to St. Joseph’s Hospice on a weekly basis to volunteer in the kitchen. As an accomplished chef in her own right she is quite at home there, lovingly preparing meals for our residents.

I met Barry shortly after meeting Eileen. He immediately agreed to participate on the Capital Campaign Cabinet, helping to engage the community in support of building London’s first and only 10-suite residence. He and Eileen invited many people to tour the new site, their guests often needing to wear a hardhat as we asked them to envision the space, even with no walls yet in place. Barry and Eileen were influential in helping us raise the funds needed to build the now 5-year-old St. Joseph’s Hospice on Windermere Road.

“Frankly, I didn’t know much about hospice and was curious as to whether it was a good fit for my volunteer interests,” shares Eileen. “After meeting with the Executive Director, I could see that my strengths in marketing and networking might contribute to the growth of Hospice of London. I found the “team” to be very compassionate and wanted to join the organization in caring for people facing this new journey in their lives. I also quickly realized that we were wrapping our care around the families of our clients. In looking back, I have been taught by all clients and will carry with me their wisdom and friendships.”

Today, as we celebrate 35 years of St. Joseph’s Hospice’s robust Community Care and 5 years of our Hospice Residence programs, I am delighted to say Barry and Eileen both continue to support the people we serve and continually share their intimate knowledge about St. Joseph’s Hospice with the wider community.

“We have both been deeply touched by the people we have met through St. Joseph’s Hospice. It is an extraordinary privilege to be with people as they journey to the end of their lives. Our lives have been enriched by the experience and opportunity to work with the residents, clients, families and staff of St. Joseph’s Hospice,” shares Barry.

Dedicated community members, like Eileen and Barry, have always worked alongside our staff at Hospice to build and grow as an organization, raise awareness and funds and increase our impact in the lives of those living with a palliative illness, their family, caregivers, and the bereaved. Learn more about our volunteer opportunities and join our volunteer team today!

Story written by former Director of Community Engagement & Development, Gabriella Catolino.

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