Suncoast Hospice volunteer Lin Rolfe

When Lin Rolfe first expressed interest in volunteering at a Suncoast Hospice Care Center, her volunteer coordinator informed her about a brand new early-morning shift.

“But you probably wouldn’t be interested in that,” Coordinator Alicia Lawler said.

It took Rolfe a half-second to reply, “Au contraire.”

“I was jumping for joy because I’m an early bird,” Rolfe said. “I can’t think of a better way to start my day than to do some service at Suncoast.”

Since 2011, Rolfe has volunteered at the North Pinellas Care Center in Palm Harbor. Officially, her shift runs from 6:00 am-8:00 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but she normally arrives by 5:10 am. Rolfe calls it her “Morning Has Broken” shift in reference to the hymn and the Cat Stevens song.

You might say Rolfe accomplishes more before 9:00 am than most people do all day. She greets visitors, sits with patients, performs Reiki and offers music therapy.

“It is absolutely beautiful, pertinent, meaningful and amazing, and I’ll tell you why,” Rolfe said. “A lot of people think that everybody’s sleeping at that hour. Au contraire. Our patients are nervous, agitated, anxious, afraid, and we have family members that have spent the night and can’t wait to get out and get a breath of fresh air.”

Rolfe is so valuable to Suncoast Hospice clinical staff that the volunteer department is recruiting more early-morning volunteers for the North Pinellas Care Center as well as the Mid-Pinellas and South Pinellas Care Centers in Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg, respectively. Suncoast Hospice is a member of Empath Health.

Suncoast Hospice Staff RN Betsy Kimes said there are normally two to three nurses and two to three certified nursing assistants on staff, depending on the number of beds in a Care Center. The North Pinellas Care Center has 30 beds.

“It’s a busy time for the aides and the nurses,” said Kimes, who works at all of the Suncoast Hospice Care Centers as a PRN nurse. “The aides start their rounds, and the nurses are passing medications. The whole house becomes a little more alive. Call bells start going off. Patients who might have been sleeping or calm will wake up and become a little restless. Just talking and being with a restless patient and being another set of eyes is invaluable.”

Rolfe, metastatic breast cancer survivor, lives in Dunedin. Though she grew up on the north end of Clearwater Beach, she spent 30 years as a surgical nurse in New Hampshire. Rolfe moved back to Florida to care for her mother, who died in 2010 at a hospital just before she could be transferred to the North Pinellas Care Center.

An only child, Rolfe was deeply affected by the loss of her mother. She suffered from depression.

“She was my rock. My whole world just crumbled,” Rolfe said.

So Rolfe decided to help herself by helping others. She inquired about becoming a Suncoast Hospice volunteer. It’s a decision she is glad she made.

“Every time I go in there, it’s brand new. My heart is open to receive. It’s not like, ‘same old, same old.’ It’s like a box of chocolates. I never know what I’m going to get,” Rolfe said.

Rolfe said she is sure there are many prospective volunteers who would enjoy an early shift like hers.

“It needs to be a morning person that can go with the flow. Sometimes you’re busy; sometimes you’re not. You never know when the request is going to happen,” Rolfe said.

And there a few practical benefits to early-morning volunteering.

“There’s no traffic, and the sun’s not glaring in your face. It’s not that hot yet,” she 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