Luanne Hatch makes daily phone calls to Suncoast Hospice Patients

The chance to give back to those who took care of a loved one is a common theme among Empath Health volunteers.

As our community learns how to adjust to the many changes caused by COVID-19, the call to serve those in need has not been diminished. While some volunteers are beginning to return to their previous roles or finding new ways to stay involved, others have been adapting throughout. Two volunteers in particular, have found their own unique ways to provide comfort and stability to patients during these uncertain times.

When Luanne Hatch started as volunteer, her first role was as a bereavement volunteer, making phone calls to people who were grieving the loss of a loved one. That led to additional training and eventually she began visiting Suncoast Hospice patients in nursing facilities to provide companionship. When the facilities could no longer allow volunteers because of the pandemic, her role went almost full circle.

Since March 23, Luanne has been making daily phone calls to one of the patients she was previously visiting regularly in-person.

“We talk anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half about anything he wants. Sometimes it’s a story I’ve already heard but I don’t mind,” says Luanne. “I often reassure him that his family will be back to see him when they can and try to keep him spiritually upbeat.”

Alan Berkey helps a patient with cleaning

Staying upbeat is something many people could use more of during these times. That is why, Alan Berkey always brings a positive attitude and lots of laughs – in addition to a vacuum cleaner – to his volunteer shifts.

For just under a year, he has spent a couple hours a week helping a home bound patient with household chores. Even with wearing a face mask and shield Alan tackles cleaning the floors, bathroom, kitchen and doing the laundry without complaint.

“He is very appreciative of it and that’s what has made it worth it. It’s very easy to put myself out there for him,” explains Alan.

Over the last 15 years, he has taken on a variety of volunteer roles from delivering medications to patients, to cooking, to sitting with patients who are imminent. It has been a meaningful way to fill his time since retiring from his teaching career.

“If you want to feel good and do something worthwhile, Empath Health has many opportunities to get involved as a volunteer,” he says.

Volunteers take on many tasks across Empath Health. From phone calls to cleaning, every moment is a meaningful one to the patients and families receiving the generosity of others.

Luanne adds, “Volunteering reinforces how blessed I am. Suncoast Hospice took care of my loved one when he passed. Now I can give back to those who took care of me.”

Learn more about volunteer opportunities with Empath Health by visiting or call volunteer services at (727) 523-3440.