A compassionate heart goes a long way when caring for patients at Hope Hospice. Since 1980, the nonprofit organization has provided guidance and care to terminally ill patients and their caregivers as they navigate their way to the end of life.

Volunteers play a key role in the program and serve patients and their families throughout the Tri-Valley. A new volunteer training program begins Sept. 4 with applications due Aug. 29.

Longtime volunteer Mary Cummings, of San Ramon, got involved with Hope Hospice after experiencing its services firsthand when she was most recently the caregiver for her sister, who had cancer.

"I recall Hope Hospice being so loving and caring and helpful and a real comfort" during that time, says Cummings. As the primary caregiver of her sister while still working and raising a 12-year-old daughter, Cummings' plate was full. A Hope Hospice volunteer offered to sit with her sister and read to her just like Cummings did.

"I was so locked into being a caregiver and forgot to take care of myself," she recalls. "It was a huge 'a-ha' moment, and I realized how important it (Hope Hospice) is for the caregiver. I knew I wanted to work with them."

Says volunteer Rosann Russo, of San Ramon: "The idea about assisting people at the end of life is important to me. An individual should go out of this world as peacefully as possible, and anything I can do to help this process is important to me," she adds.


Advertisement

Cummings and Russo sit with their patients and offer respite care for their caregivers. They spend the time reading to their patients, playing cards, conversing or many times, just providing "a loving, caring and supportive presence," as Cummings describes. They hold hands, stroke arms and make a connection.

Russo also provides memory care whereby she spends time showing her patients photos and talks with them to stimulate them into conversation.

"I love my patients, every one of them," says Russo who says that even though some may be unable to verbally communicate, they are able to communicate. "People can smile with their eyes. You're getting an emotional response," she adds.

"It's an honor for a family to allow me to come in and be with their loved one," says Cummings, as they make the transition. Families appreciate the help during the difficult time and Hope Hospice is "so appreciative of their volunteers, she says. "They make you feel so important and special."

Volunteering at Hope Hospice "fills my heart," says Cummings. "Everyone has a gift, and I can do this."

Volunteer training sessions for those interested in assisting hospice patients and their families are held on five consecutive Thursdays beginning Sept. 4. Apply online by Aug. 29 and learn more about the services offered at www.hopehospice.com, or contact Hope Hospice Director of Volunteers Jill Biggs, R.N. at 925-829-8770.

HELPING SOLDIERS OVERSEES is the goal for San Ramon Boy Scout Austin Block, who is inviting the community to help at his event this weekend at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on San Ramon Boulevard.

A member of Troop 834, Austin's Eagle project is organizing a collection of items such as books, magazines, playing cards, tooth brushes and tooth paste and individualized food snacks that will be sent to the troops.

"I am humbled to work through the Blue Star Moms," he says of helping the soldiers.

Please bring your donations of the above items to St. Joan of Arc Saturday between 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

ENJOY THESE WARM summer nights and join fellow residents at the free Outdoor Movie Nights sponsored by the San Ramon Library Foundation.

"The Lego Movie" will be the feature on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Dougherty Station Community Center. Free popcorn will be served.

Dive in with your Pixar friends and come and watch "Finding Nemo" at the San Ramon Olympic Pool on Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. Bring floats or deck chairs. The pool will open at 7 p.m. for free swimming.

PARKS MAKE LIFE BETTER: Volunteer Days continue Aug. 23 this time at San Ramon's Forest Home Farms Historic Park. From 9 a.m. to noon, volunteers are invited to join the city's park maintenance staff and help spruce up the park. Tasks will include applying mulch, painting, general cleanup and more. Refreshments will be provided. All ages are welcome, but children younger than 13 must be accompanied by an adult. Register in advance at www.citylights.volunteerhub.com.

Contact Monica Lander at landerfamily@comcast.net.