The best place to set up camp during a bingo game at the Suncoast PACE Day Center is at volunteer Savanna Ramsey’s table.
There you have two chances to win: your card and hers.
“I do let them win,” Ramsey admitted with a laugh. “I just can’t help it. If my card’s the winner, we usually take turns who at the table actually gets to claim the win.”
The 35-year-old Ramsey, a product marketing manager, has injected youthful energy and enthusiasm into the Day Center since becoming a volunteer in January. Suncoast PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) offers day care and medical support for seniors facing chronic or advanced illness in Pinellas County. Suncoast PACE is a member of Empath Health.
PACE participants take part in fun activities and socialization during their time at the Day Center. That’s where Ramsey comes in. The Atlanta-area native found she connected with elderly patients while working in a hospital as a teenager. Ramsey enjoys coloring and playing games with the participants. Sometimes, she just checks in to find out how they’re feeling that day.
“It really is just spending time with the participants,” she said. “There are definitely days that feel like, ‘Well, I just sat here and chatted with people.’ Then, once you realize the impact that has, it’s much more significant. I like to think it improves their overall quality of life for that day.”
Empath Health Volunteer Coordinator Traci Sutton said, “Savanna simply enjoys people. She visits with each participant when she is in the Day Center. She sees the participants as people, the same as herself and her friends. She allows them to be who they are without judgment.”
Ramsey moved to Pinellas County from New York City late last year after being laid off from her job. Last month, she started a new job as an associate director of product marketing for Spotify, so she has taken a short break from volunteering while adjusting to her new schedule. She plans to get back to the Day Center as soon as possible.
“I just wanted to find some ways to give back during my time off. That’s what led me to PACE,” Ramsey said. “I was exploring some of the neighborhoods, and I drove past an Empath facility. When I was doing some preliminary research on just overall volunteer opportunities, it happened to be one of the first things that popped up. I went through volunteer training, and once I learned about all the various opportunities, Suncoast and PACE was something I felt connected to.”
Volunteers like Ramsey are vital to non-profit healthcare organizations like Empath Health. During Fiscal Year 2022, Empath’s 2,000 volunteers provided almost 200,000 hours of service that represented more than $5 million of value to the company. In 2019, the nation’s hospice volunteers generated more than $469 million in annual savings, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) reported.
Unfortunately, Empath Health has suffered a reduction of volunteers that began during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Vice President of Volunteer Engagement Stacy Groff, volunteer numbers are down 30 to 50 percent from pre-pandemic levels, depending on the service line. The volunteers who left during the pandemic are slowly returning.
Ramsey said she made a great decision volunteering at Empath Health.
“It’s a cliché, but I usually do get more out of it than they do. I never leave in a worse mood. It has been a really rewarding experience. It’s absolutely worth taking a stab at it and exploring different opportunities,” Ramsey said.
For more information about volunteering in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Highland and Hardee counties, call (727) 523-3440. In Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, call (941) 441-2061. Information and an application are available at EmpathVolunteers.org.