April 20, 2021
25 Years Of Service: Hospice Volunteer Elma Wright
Elma Wright, 92, has been a volunteer at EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House on 56th Street since nearly the beginning.
Just a few short years after the hospice house was built, a nurse visited St. Andrews Episcopal Church to talk about the local hospice home.
“She demonstrated and talked about how hospice works to a room full of people,” Elma recalls.
After the introduction, Elma and her late husband Richard began to volunteer with the organization. That was 25 years ago.
While Elma visited with patients at Kavanagh House on 56th Street, Richard helped with billing and other office tasks at the organization’s administrative buildings.
“When I went to 56th Street, there were three of us,” she says. “We worked Monday afternoons. We had this little bitty laundry area and we did laundry, walked the halls, got anything the patients needed.”
Those needs often included going out for the morning paper, and once, a trip to McDonald’s to bring back a cheeseburger, Elma recalls.
“It’s always been a super place to volunteer,” she says. “Everybody is so pleasant.”
And that includes fellow volunteers and EveryStep staff members, whom Elma says have become friends over the years.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to most volunteer activities at Kavanagh House, Elma says she formed a nice friendship with the two other volunteers who served at the same time each week that she did.
“When I’ve needed help because of something that has come up about me, like a surgery or something, people have come to help me,” she says. “I’ve had some other volunteer jobs, but I’ve never had one where I thought people kind of looked after each other.”
It’s that camaraderie and support Elma looks forward to being part of when volunteer activities resume and renovation work on Kavanagh House finishes later this year.*
“It gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and go help someone,” she says. “It keeps you going. I’ll be glad to get to go back.”
She hopes others seek out volunteer opportunities, too, suggesting they try it out a few times just to see if it’s a good fit.
“It’s just a very pleasant place to volunteer,” she says. “Don’t be afraid of the patients or the staff. Just try it and maybe it will be your cup of tea.’
* During the renovation, Kavanagh House’s hospice patients are being cared for at EveryStep’s Bright Kavanagh Center in east Des Moines.
If you're interested in volunteer opportunities with EveryStep, visit our website and complete our volunteer application.