Linda WhiteMiriam “Bunny” Flarsheim Patient and Family Support Volunteer Award

Linda White, Patient and Family Support Volunteer

Linda White is a seasoned volunteer who embraces service, graciously mentors new volunteers and is committed to continually learning new skills to enhance the lives of others as well as her own. She talks of her volunteer work as “finding her calling.”

“I’m here to make the transition easier for the patients and their family,” says White. “My father received hospice care and I wanted to give back. So that’s what I decided to do.”

White joined Empath Health in 2004 and has since donated more than 1950 hours in a variety of roles. Initially she made visits to nursing facilities and began serving the Suncoast Hospice North Pinellas Care Center after it opened as both a transitions volunteer and a pet therapy volunteer with her Pomeranian, Cody, and later with Lillie the Yorkie.

As a transitions volunteer, White sits with patients whose passing is imminent to provide a comforting presence. She also greets visitors at the Care Center welcome desk and is trained in aromatherapy, Reiki and mealtime assistance for patients.

“I have worked with Linda for the past seven years of her long volunteer career and she continues to blossom as a volunteer,” says Volunteer Coordinator Kathie Jones. “I have seen her skill set grow in addition to her confidence. She has grown to see the value in her abilities and contributions as she continues to see the difference it makes. Linda is dedicated to our hospice mission and those we serve.”

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant many volunteers were not able to partake in their normal roles. During the summer of 2020 White not only earned certification as a Reiki Master, but also served on the committee to develop and teach virtual Reiki trainings for other volunteers. Once a safe return was possible for volunteers, she was one of the first to return to the welcome desk and has since resumed visiting patients with Lillie.

Though volunteers have been in short supply as a result of the pandemic, White has never hesitated in service. She has picked up additional shifts to ensure patients, families, staff and fellow volunteers have the support they need.

“Linda is a wonderful Suncoast Hospice representative in the community, whether it is at her temple or in her neighborhood,” adds Jones. “It is easy to be inspired by Linda. She is the calm, unassuming presence that steadily shows up and gives of herself in service to others.”

Gloria CollinsOrganizational Support Award

Gloria Collins, Organizational Support Volunteer

For 20 years Gloria Collins has been making deliveries for the Empath Pharmacy. She started with Saturday mornings, and once she retired began taking on shifts twice a week or more.

“I wanted to volunteer, but I was working full time so I needed to find something that I could do on the weekends. Then I found Suncoast Hospice,” explains Collins.

When she first began GPS was not readily available and delivery routes were planned via a large map of Pinellas County hanging on the dispatch wall. This was a time-consuming process that could take up to an hour. Many things have evolved since then including technology, processes for correctly identifying patients and safety and infection prevention precautions. Collins has easily adapted to each change and now trains new pharmacy volunteers, ensuring they have the most current information.

“I cannot begin to express how many colleagues and volunteers say that Gloria goes above and beyond. Whether it is driving out to Tierre Verde or the furthest most reaches of Tarpon Springs, Gloria will gladly go,” says Volunteer Coordinator Patricia Roller, who nominated Collins. “Her flexibility helps with ensuring everyone can get their medications in a timely manner. If there is a patient need, Gloria immediately communicates this to our dispatch so we can address the concerns or get the team involved if needed.”

Although Collins is a volunteer driver, she has never hesitated to lend a hand in other ways. When needed, she has stepped up to help with phone calls and other office tasks. She also takes time to have to be a listening ear for staff and volunteers.

When COVID began, Collins continued to deliver medications even as others chose to bunker down. Even through the safety protocols of distancing and wearing masks, her empathetic personality still connected with patients and families. Often she would stand outside in the sun and listen as patients expressed how the pandemic was affecting them.

During her deliveries, Collins often has people tell her they don’t know what they would do without Suncoast Hospice. It’s a sentiment she shares. When her husband became ill, she paused volunteer activities to take on the role of caregiver and was assisted by the care she has helped support for so many years.

“My husband passed away a year and a half ago. Suncoast Hospice was involved and I’m so thankful for them,” adds Collins. “It made my life easier, and I was happy to have my husband home with me. That was so important.”

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