EveryStep Hospice Patient Gloria Coverdell's Journey

Gloria Coverdell’s life has included Hollywood lights, extraordinary acts of kindness, dedicated volunteerism and deep friendships.

Born and raised in Des Moines, Gloria decided to make her way across the country after graduating from college. She eventually found herself in California, where she stayed for most of her adult life. “I was a teacher for five years and then I decided I wanted to work in Hollywood,” says Gloria.

That’s when the Hollywood adventure began.

Gloria got a job in Hollywood as a “Kelly” girl — a temporary office worker. She soon moved to Columbia Pictures as a secretary and her career took off from there. “I became a personal assistant to several movie stars, including five years with Julie Andrews,” says Gloria. She also worked for the producers of the 80s hit comedy, Designing Women. “And then I got tired of that,” remembers Gloria. She left the Hollywood scene and took a job as a designer for a major national executive training motivation program.

While Gloria was living in a triplex in north Hollywood, she met a neighbor who had been disabled since birth. “Dorothy had a cleft palate, which caused hearing problems and other physical limitations,” says Gloria. “We got to know each other and became good friends.” When Dorothy’s trustee felt he could no longer care for Dorothy, he asked Gloria if she would consider taking over.

That’s when the travel adventures began.

“I agreed to become Dorothy’s trustee and I went to live with her. She had never been out of her house — she wasn’t able to leave because her health challenges limited her. But I asked her if she’d like to travel and she said yes,” Gloria recounts. “We lived and traveled together for 23 years!”

When Gloria’s aunt in Iowa was in declining health, Gloria decided it was time to move back to Des Moines. Dorothy and Gloria moved to a home in Windsor Heights in 2006. Dorothy passed away in 2012.

That’s when the volunteering adventure began.

“I don’t remember how I learned about EveryStep, but I knew that I had to do something to compensate for the lack of Dorothy,” says Gloria. “I just wanted to help people that needed help. So, I went through the training program and started volunteering.”

Gloria began as a hospice volunteer at EveryStep’s Kavanagh House. “I visited with those who were in the hospice home and took care of their needs. I also worked at the front answering phones, did laundry — all the mundane things that had to be done.” Transitioning to become a volunteer with EveryStep’s Senior Companion program, Gloria accompanied seniors on errands or simply visited them at home.

That’s when Gloria’s self-awareness adventure began.

“I had to learn from the very beginning that the people I volunteered for, well, I couldn’t do it my way,” says Gloria. “That’s all I’d ever done all my life —do it my way!” Gloria remembers learning early on that her attempts to be helpful could go awry.

“I once took a lady to go grocery shopping and I kept suggesting healthier or better options than what she wanted. The poor lady started to cry! Another time I was visiting a lady who showed me her large collection of vintage hats. Being a hard-core garage sale fanatic, I suggested we take pictures of the hats and try to sell them, because that was just my nature. She just looked aghast,” remembers Gloria. “It got much easier as I went along, but you just have to learn that it’s their life, not yours.” In 2021, Gloria was a recipient of the Governor’s Volunteer Award, following a recommendation by the EveryStep team.

After years of volunteering at her church and for EveryStep, Gloria began having stomach problems. “I went to the doctor for about a year for my symptoms and no one could pinpoint what was wrong. They kept telling me it was acid reflux.” A friend encouraged her to request an endoscopy.

That’s when Gloria’s adventures took an unwelcome turn.

In February 2022, Gloria was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the stomach and abdomen. “They said it was advanced and I only had a couple of months to live.” Gloria began receiving EveryStep Hospice services in her home in March. Now she is the one receiving visits from church friends and EveryStep’s Senior Companion volunteers.

“I’m different in many ways because I never had any children. Visits from volunteers and friends make such a difference,” says Gloria. But Gloria is not lonely. In fact, she’s concerned about the EveryStep Hospice Metro team’s nurses who visit. “That must be so difficult for them,” says Gloria. “To see people die no matter how much they do for them.”

Now, while EveryStep Hospice nurses and Senior Companion volunteers help make Gloria comfortable, she awaits her next adventure, one she says is based on her faith.

“In a way, my whole life has been an adventure. I’m very grateful for the EveryStep volunteers and my friends from church that are helping me. Now, the only thing that keeps me going is my faith. It’s the only thing that matters in the end.”

EveryStep is currently hiring hospice nurses and aides. If you are interested in joining the EveryStep team, visit https://www.everystep.org/careers. To learn about volunteering options, including the Senior Companion program, visit https://www.everystep.org/volunteer.

If you or someone you know needs care or support, complete the confidential "Find Care" form at www.everystep.org/find-care. The form sends a message to EveryStep staff who then follow up with a phone call. It's a great way to start a conversation and get answers with no cost or commitment. EveryStep can connect the individual to its own programs and services that may be helpful, as well as services offered by other organizations and providers in the community.