April 23, 2021
35 Years of Service: EveryStep Hospice Volunteer Linda Miller
From sitting with patients to filing papers for Human Resources, Linda Miller has spent the 35 years she's volunteered at EveryStep helping anyway she can.
"The people are so nice," she says. "I've always wanted to stay, and they've never asked me to leave. We've gotten along just fine."
When Linda first hear of the myriad volunteer opportunities at EveryStep, it was through a blurb in her church's newsletter that advertised a volunteer training event.
"So in the spring of 1986, I just decided that I was going to do that," she says. "There were eight evening sessions and I absolutely loved that. As soon as I was done with training I started seeing patients at their homes and at Kavanagh House on 56th Street."
Linda vividly remembers the first patients she was paired with. The man had nowhere to go but a nursing home, but his ex-wife didn't want him to go there. Instead, she opened her home to him and made him a room with his hospital bed and everything he needed.
Before Linda made the trip to the house, she asked her volunteer coordinator how late the evening visits typically lasted as she had work the next day at DMACC's Ankeny campus.
"She said I'd be home by 10 p.m. at the latest," Linda recalls. "Well, the woman went to play bingo with her friends and didn't get back until 12:30 a.m. We laughed about that."
Linda continued to visit with the man, but made sure the woman knew she couldn't stay quite as late.
"He really wanted to visit, he was so distanced from his kids,' she says. "They had said he'd maybe live one week, but he lived 12 weeks, and in that time he was able to reconnect with two of his adult children. I think he felt okay after that."
The night the man died, Linda was about to leave when his daughter invited her to stay.
"I thought, ‘I can't not stay,’" she says. "It was an incredible experience."
Over the next 35 years, Linda has served many EveryStep patients, listening to their stories.
"I can't explain the experience," she says. "Some of my friends will ask, 'Isn't it sad,' and you are sad for the family members, but the patient and you become connected. I always felt it was a privilege to be with someone and hear their stories when they were dying."
Over time, Linda spent less time with patients. Instead, she transitioned to doing laundry at Kavanagh House on Fridays and eventually moved to more EveryStep's Bright Kavanagh Center where she now volunteers with the Human Resources team.
"Watching those ladies in HR, our staff could have learned a thing or two from them, they just work so well together," Linda says. "Sometimes you go to other organizations and they can be catty, but no one has ever done that here in my 35 years."
The appreciation and respect she's received over the past three decades keep Linda coming back.
"One day, when I was supposed to be doing laundry at Kavanagh House, something came up and I was an hour-and-a-half late," Linda recalls. "I got there and apologized and Gladys, another volunteer at the front desk, said, 'you came, you're not late. Everyone appreciates everything you do, you're just fine.' How many people say that? The people are just so nice."
Linda hopes others will consider volunteering for EveryStep, adding that there are so many opportunities available.
"People are under the misnomer that they have to be with someone who is dying, they don't realize there are other things you can do," she says. If you're interested in volunteer opportunities with EveryStep visit our website.