Volunteer Joni Dalgar helps assemble items in the Empath Health Copy Center

When you first meet Joni Dalgar, known by many around Empath Health as JD, it’s easy to see that she is an enthusiastic and dedicated individual. It also becomes very apparent that above all, she is humble.

As a volunteer for more than 10 years, Dalgar has left her mark on nearly every facet of the organization. She has helped with auditing and design work. She lends a hand to the copy center. She’s been a calming and caring presence for families and patients alike.

Like many volunteers, her desire to give back comes from her own personal experience with hospice care, when her mother passed from cancer.

“That was my first exposure to a hospice organization and I was amazed at the things they do for both the patient and the family,” says Dalgar.

Though her experience was with a hospice provider in Connecticut, the impact was profound enough to lead Dalgar to seek out a similar organization locally where she could give her time. That search led her to Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health.

Among her many assorted roles, the one nearest to her heart has been as a transitions volunteer. These volunteers sit with patients who are imminent and are there to provide a comforting presence or a hand to hold as they pass, so they know they are not alone.

“It’s the most amazing experience,” she adds. “It’s a real gift to be able to support patients, families and the care team in this way.”

Dalgar started volunteering with the intent of working with patients and families, however all volunteers start in other areas of the organization as they acclimate and take on further training. Often, they continue to support these areas.

With many opportunities across Empath Health, volunteers are ideally matched with roles that fill their unique skill sets or interests. Dalgar’s experience as a district manager for what is now the UPS Store made her a perfect fit for the copy center since she already had knowledge of valuable skills for a print shop environment, which involves tasks varying from assembling binders to laminating, binding, or folding print collateral.

She also has spent time staffing the Welcome Desk at the Suncoast Hospice Care Center Mid-Pinellas. Dalgar found her experience in that role to be just as impactful for her as it was for the families she greeted.

“Working the Welcome Desk was eye opening,” she says. “You never know when it is someone’s first time walking through those doors or their first experience with hospice. That can be a scary time. As a volunteer, we can be there to provide comfort or an encouraging word to those family members.”

Dalgar enthusiastically and frequently shares praise for the work of her Empath Health staff and her fellow volunteers while being modest about her own contributions. However, this dedication has not gone unnoticed by those she supports.

“Joni has a huge heart that you don’t often see in people,” says Anthony Davis, copy center specialist. “She is an incredible person and has been absolutely indispensable.”

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dalgar has not been able to return to the Care Center in her typical volunteer capacity, but she still found a way to continue showing her support by arranging to bring food to the staff there.

She also participates in the Pet Peace of Mind program and fostered two dogs for several months before they could be united with a family member. Additionally, every year Dalgar organizes a drive in her neighborhood to collect items for the Suncoast Hospice Resale Shops and arranges for these items to be picked up. When out in the community she is a willing ambassador for Empath Health, who always has business cards on hand.

“I volunteer because I want to support the staff in the field however I can. Every little hour is a big help and there are so many ways to get involved,” adds Dalgar. “Even after 11 years I’m still passionate about it.”

Learn more about volunteer opportunities with Empath Health.