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Pathways Volunteer Stories
A Wicked Sense of Humor and a Caring Heart Make a Special Volunteer
“Steve has a special ability to forge a bond with the patients he sees. He takes people where they are and makes no judgments and, as a result, is able to see the essence and humanity of each patient. He combines a wicked sense of humor with a deep spirituality.” With these words, Sheryl Brown, Pathways’ Volunteer Manager for our South San Francisco office presented Steven Haley the 2011 Volunteer of the Year award.
Steve Haley with his daughter Ruth
Haley, who joined Pathways as a volunteer in 2008, says he sees his job very simply. “I am there to let every patient I see know that, although the time they have may be limited medically, they are important, loved, and special. That’s it. Every human being deserves to know that and believe that.”
Haley knows personally about the importance of hospice care. His mother received hospice care after ten years of living with Parkinson’s, and Steve is convinced that care extended her life. “Hospice has such a positive effect regardless of the situation. Until a person has experienced how hospice can help, they may not understand the benefits,” he says.
An only child, Steve was born in Oakland and grew up here in the Bay Area. He joined the Army in 1973 and served for twenty years, with postings in Germany, Greece (he speaks Greek fluently), and locations around the U.S. His last posting was at the Presidio in San Francisco, so he was here to ensure his mother got the care she needed. “I couldn’t care for her alone. She needed the care she would get in a facility. I must have looked at twenty places before I found the right one for her. ” He visited her daily and when she came to need hospice care, it was provided to her in the facility.
His experience with his mother has made him a more sensitive volunteer. Many of the patients Steve visits with are in facilities as well. “If a patient needs assistance when eating, I try to go see them at mealtimes so that I can make sure they are fed by the facility staff while the food is still hot. I also like to help them get out of their room and even out of the facility when the weather is good,” he says. As a hospice volunteer, Steve cannot drive patients in his car, but he can push a patient’s wheelchair or take walks with them. “It’s so important to allow the patients to interact with others – with people they might not see in their normal day inside the facility. It perks them up,” Steve explains.
“When I first meet a patient, I always tell them, ‘This hour I spend with you is my hour too and you’re going to get the best hour I have to give,’” Steve says. He has tricks to get even the most withdrawn patient to respond. “I cheat,” he admits cheerfully. “I come in with conversation starters – a newspaper, my military cap, a bible if I know they are Christians – whatever it takes to put them at their ease and get them talking. I’m a big believer in using humor to ease the situation.”
Steve’s own life has been touched by tragedy. More than 10 years ago his 14-year-old son was murdered. His marriage foundered. He has found comfort in his faith and in knowing that life is full of what he calls “little miracles.” He is close to his daughter Ruth, who is working toward her teaching credential and wants to teach elementary school.
“We’re all here temporarily,” Steve says. “Being on hospice gives you an opportunity to prepare yourself for whatever comes next. That’s a gift.”
If you would like more information about the Pathways Volunteer Services program, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-888-755-7855.
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Copyright 2010 Pathways. All rights reserved. Last update:
August 19, 2011