As we celebrate National Volunteer Month in April, read about our final two 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award winners and their extraordinary service.
Irma Porterfield – Specialized Volunteer Service Award Lavender and Bronze Teams, Companionship, Pet Visits and Reiki
Porterfield began her volunteer service with Suncoast Hospice in 2013. She visits with patients living in assisted living facilities and has completed special training to visit with patients in their final hours, provide bereavement support for families and provide Reiki energy-healing sessions for patients. She made bereavement calls for three years until deciding to explore pet visits with her dog Tater. Porterfield often shares stories of the powerful reactions Tater receives while visiting patients with dementia. A hospice physician marveled when a dementia patient she never heard speak, began talking when Tater came around. Irma has a “hospice closet” where she stores magazines and picture books that she takes along on visits. She sits by patients’ sides, reads to them, shows them pictures and occasionally sings for them. Porterfield regularly attends volunteer supports and shares stories and suggestions for fellow volunteers. She also serves as an ambassador for the organization, often encouraging others to get involved or seek information.
“I’ve had beautiful experiences with Tater. People have spoken to him in different languages and it’s like he’s listening,” Porterfield shared.
Ron Gemmill – Empath Health Members Award Suncoast PACE and Lavender and Coral Teams
Gemmill started his volunteer service with Suncoast Hospice in 2012. He first provided patients and families support, then became specially trained to visit with patients in their final hours and then provided transportation for patients. Then he decided to become a Suncoast PACE volunteer. PACE participants often share how much they love and appreciate his support. For the last two years, Gemmill has transported a PACE participant to visit his wife whom resides in a nursing home a distance from him. Without Gemmill, this couple would rarely have the opportunity to see one another. Gemmill’s compassion, selflessness and willingness to help in any way he can have made him a beloved volunteer with all the patients he works with. One patient’s family loved Gemmill so much that they asked him to speak at the patient’s funeral. He has a wonderful sense of humor, which allows him to be resilient and see the beauty in the moment.
“I retired and moved to Florida to be with my baby sis. She got sick and was in hospice care. Then my mom was in hospice care. It’s a good way to give back. I like to stay busy,” Gemmill shared.
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