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Volunteer Spotlight: Paul’s Sacred Moment

Vital volunteer work
In honor of National Volunteer Month we bring you the first in a volunteer spotlight series highlighting the compassionate hearts who serve as Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) volunteers. Every volunteer comes to us with a unique background and motivation for volunteering and every one of them enriches lives with their service. 

PHS volunteers are a vital component of our ministry, including hospice care. For some, ministering to people at the end of life may be uncomfortable, but for volunteer Paul Thompson, he found it to be the perfect fit.

Paul Thompson, Optage VolunteerCalled to serve
Each individual has a unique story behind why they choose to volunteer. For Paul, it was the experience of hospice with his parents. His mother lived at Johanna Shores with the support of Optage® hospice care for the last year of her life. It was through his visits with his mother, who was in the later stages of dementia, that he felt the tug to volunteer.

It is a truly heart-wrenching reality to witness a loved-one’s memories and abilities fade. Paul recalls wondering if his visits were making a difference to his mother after she had lost her ability to speak. It was a hospice professional who encouraged him to continue his visits, acknowledging that we often do not know what people with dementia can still perceive.

Paul was present during the final moments of his mother’s life, what he calls the “sacred moment.” A moment he might have missed had he not been encouraged by the hospice professional.  This experience moved him to seek information about volunteer opportunities with Optage Hospice.

Sacred space
Paul now gives of his time by making twice a month visits to be present with three individuals on hospice. The visits are flexible to his work schedule and availability. While driving to see his clients, he says a prayer asking for guidance in ministering to each person in their time of greatest need. He becomes a familiar face with those he visits, learning about their backgrounds, families, likes and dislikes. He takes the time to cultivate these relationships because he knows from personal experience how much of an impact this can have.  

Recently, Paul was present during the final moments of someone’s life. He received a call from Volunteer Coordinator Jennie Connors that Marilyn-with whom he visited regularly- was actively dying, so he drove to be with her as soon as he could. At the bedside was Marilyn’s husband and children. Knowing that she loved hymns and music, unprompted, he began to sing “How Great Thou Art.” He considers it a privilege to have ministered to both the family and Marilyn in that “sacred space.”  Paul later learned that the family chose to include the hymn he sang in the funeral program for their loved one.  Drawing on his own experience with his mother, Paul provided support and guidance to the family as they said their goodbyes.

Understanding the end of life
Paul knows firsthand the honor of being present with people inPhoto courtesy of Sophia Fries the final stages of life. He offers support by answering questions and helping both family members and clients alike to understand the end of life. Apart from his personal experience with his mother, Paul credits the Optage hospice team for preparing him with the resources and training necessary to be knowledgeable and supportive. “You might think it takes a special person, but what it takes is simply a willing person,” says Paul. He gains experience and learns as he goes, staying committed to the number of visits he can handle within his own schedule.

Volunteer opportunities with Optage and PHS
Interested in exploring volunteer opportunities with Optage? Volunteer Coordinator Jennie Connors would love to connect and help you find the perfect fit.

Call or email Samantha 651.746.8200 or

Optage® is the home and community services division of PHS and offers a variety of volunteer opportunities. Whether you are a current volunteer or just exploring the call for the first time, Optage has something for everyone. Training and support are provided to volunteers who wish to offer their time visiting and building relationships with the people we serve.

Presbyterian Homes & Services offers volunteer opportunities at all of our communities. Click here to learn more.

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