It takes a village (and then some)
Volunteers encourage others to give it a try
The Haynes House of Hope could use some help.
As a part of its ongoing mission to provide a comfortable, caring place for the terminally ill and their families, the Route 149 facility could use a helping hand, or hands, from the community.
“We’re tying to find a way to help people understand what a meaningful experience it is to volunteer there,” Haynes House organizer Crystal Everdyke said.
“I think we’re doing better about letting people know what we do but I think we’re still have a ways to go to help them understand how we do it – we take care of terminally ill people but we do it in a way that’s comfortable for them and for us,” Everdyke said.
When she speaks with groups about the house, Everdyke said she reminds them the organization functions just like a house with the same needs as anyone’s household.
So the walks need to be shoveled during the winter, the drive plowed and when the weather warms up there is gardening, mowing and trimming to be done – the same things many do at home each summer weekend. They need garbage bags and light bulbs and dish soap just like every house but what they need most of all are volunteers.
Everdyke said she’s not certain, but thinks it could be fear of the unknown keeping people from volunteering at the Haynes House –even fear of death itself.
“I think it’s still they might be afraid it’s too involved medically and it’s nothing more complicated then handing your child a Tylenol when they have a fever. Everything is portioned out in those daily (pill boxes), we don’t have to fill any prescriptions, don’t use any needles or anything like that,” Everdyke said.
Volunteers with the Haynes House talk about what a rewarding experience their time at Haynes House is and add they’re sure others would get as much out of it as they do – if they just give it a try.
Granville High School Assistant Principal Dan Poucher said he and wife Beth are regular volunteers at the House. They volunteer a couple of times a week and have done so since the facility opened, they said.
Asked why people might not volunteer at the Haynes House, Beth Poucher said she also guessed it might be fear of the unknown. Poucher said she had some reservation at first but became more comfortable the more she did.
“At first, if you’re not sure you can shadow someone to get a feel for it,” she said.
Tasks at the Haynes House range from cooking or cleaning to handing out simple medications or just hanging out with the resident and talking.
Poucher said he enjoys getting to know the residents and the families, often providing simply an attentive ear or a partner for conversation. “It’s an honor to hear their life stories,” he said.
Both said the volunteers are never asked to do more than they are comfortable doing.
Gordie and Shelly Smith said they also started with the Haynes House at the very beginning with the demolition of the old parsonage and have continued to volunteer at the facility every week.
Shelly Smith said she initially had reservations about volunteering to spend time with the residents. Two things eased her into the task, one, working with a partner and two, starting small.
Smith said she has always volunteered as a tandem with her husband and highly recommends this for anyone considering volunteering but hesitating. “Two people doing one chore makes it a lot easier,” she said.
And that other person can help support the other while they both support the resident. Smith said starting small helps any volunteer get used to working within the house, adding no one is ever asked to do more than they are comfortable with.
“If you can’t do, it you can’t do it and that’s fine,” she said.
For that reason the group of dedicated volunteers is key in helping others transition into working at the house.
Gordie Smith said anyone who is unsure should volunteer to work with a resident during the early stages of their time at the house which would allow more time for anyone to get acclimated.
“It’s not about the place it’s about the person and caring for them when they are at their most vulnerable,” Smith said.
Volunteers like the Smiths said a comfort zone can be stretched way beyond what anyone can ever imagine.
“Somehow what you’re doing for the resident and their families turns out to be a lot more important than whatever it is you fear,” Everdyke said.
That said, Smith said she’s also sure there are just some people who are either not cut out to volunteer to work with the residents, but they can still work on the grounds or help by donating. “I’d recommend it to people who are really interested but don’t know if they can do it, if the fear is keeping you away don’t miss this opportunity because you’re afraid,” Smith said.
Volunteers are typically asked to sign up for a four hour shift, but Everdyke said the Haynes House is flexible. If someone is coming in from a longer distance and they want to have a longer shift they can; if they want to volunteer at the same time as a friend and work as a pair that too can happen.
The Haynes House of Hope is a comfort care home offering end of life care to dieing residents, as many as two at one time, and their families. The service is extended to residents of western Rutland County as well as Washington, Warren and Saratoga Counties in New York.
Anyone considering volunteering can contact the Haynes House director Janelle Clark at 642-8155.