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Visiting Nurse Association Recognizes Hospice Volunteers Familiar Face Can Make all the Difference at End of Life

Palm Desert, CA – The Atria Hacienda De Monterey was the setting for the Visiting Nurse Association’s Hospice Volunteer luncheon on April 20,, honoring over 40 volunteers who support hospice patients with dignity and quality care for their end of life. The theme, “In Recognition of Your Extraordinary Heart” was fitting for National Volunteer Week and the VNA Volunteer Appreciation Day.

The Visiting Nurse Association’s (VNA) Palm Desert Hospice office serves over 500 patients annually from the Coachella Valley to the Salton Sea. While the Hospice team medical professionals focus on keeping patients comfortable and maintaining quality of care, it is the 50 hospice volunteers who spend time talking with, reading to, finding resources for, and reaching out to support the non-medical needs of patients and their families during these especially trying times. For those patients who can benefit from a little extra comfort, one of VNA’s seven certified pet therapy dogs can make house calls.

While they donate their time for many reasons and come from all walks of life, VNA’s hospice volunteers’ commitment to serve tends to be long-term. At this year’s luncheon they celebrated anniversaries and milestones. Special recognition was given to Sally Douglas, Patti Jones, and Rabbi Melvin Silverman for seven years of service. Dolores Peden, Maxine Smith and John Walker celebrated eight years with VNA Hospice. And, the longest serving volunteers with 10 years of selfless service included Betty Cunningham, Dorothy Knebel, Pattie Wilson, Nancy Reed, Joan Manahl, Erik Svede, and Loretta May.

Special awards were given for notable milestones. Eight year volunteer, Bruce McComb had the most patient visits – 230 – in the last year. VNA’s Harpist Volunteers, Jeannette Debonne with 10 years of service and Marji Vasholz with eight years of service, continue to touch patients with song. Volunteer Keith Stenshoel, a snowbird from Oregon, was recognized as the longest distance runner for racking up 2,029 miles for hospice patient visits. And, a four-legged award went to Linda Dixon from “Linda’s Rover Achievers” for providing behavioral training for VNA’s pet therapy dogs.

“We couldn’t do it without our hospice volunteers,” commented Kathlyn Curnow, Coordinator of Volunteer Services for the Palm Desert office. In 2011, volunteers logged over 12,300 miles and almost 2,000 hours. In addition, VNA’s four-legged volunteers made over 375 patient visits. “Our volunteers are a critical part of our Hospice teams. They provide that gentle smile, relief for an exhausted caregiver, and become a welcome companion in difficult times. We are grateful for their generosity of time and spirit”, Kathlyn concluded.

About Visiting Nurse Association of the Inland Counties (VNA)
One of the oldest providers of in-home skilled nursing services in Southern California, VNA supports 10,000+ patients with 300,000+ visits each year. The only non-profit to offer a complete continuum of home care, VNA provides Home Health, Palliative, and Hospice services throughout Riverside, San Bernardino, and North San Diego Counties. In addition, VNA’s Community Outreach efforts include Mourning Star Centers for Child and Teen Grief and Bereavement, the Nightingale Society, and Charity Care Services, as well as community seminars for adult bereavement and other health related topics and professional continuing education. For more information on services provided from the Coachella Valley to the Salton Sea, contact the Palm Desert Office at: Home Health – 760-346-3982; Hospice – 760-674-0451; or

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