May 17, 2021
EveryStep Hospice Volunteer: Amber McDowell
Amber McDowell has been a volunteer with EveryStep Hospice in southwest Iowa for five years but feels she should have started long before that.
"It kind of feels like a 'life calling' for me," she says.
Amber first discovered EveryStep Hospice and its plentiful volunteer opportunities when Machelle Lowe, volunteer coordinator, stopped by Amber's place of work with informational handouts.
"I'm so glad I went through the easy process of becoming a volunteer, and I've been encouraging others to do it ever since," she says.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic when volunteers were still seeing patients in person, Amber spent time visiting patients, reading to them, singing to and with them, and wheeling them around the facility.
She's also spent time participating in EveryStep’s veteran pinning ceremonies and completing Life Reviews, in which volunteers record interviews with patients talking about their lives. The recorded conversations are given to the patient and their families as a gift and long-lasting memory.
"Those are always incredibly interesting," she says of Life Reviews. "I wish I had one of my mom."
Over the years, Amber says she's had many special moments with hospice patients and their families, but one clearly stands out.
"I was there when a patient passed who was not far from my age," Amber says. "It was serene and I felt blessed to be there. I stayed with the family until the ambulance arrived and attended her funeral, where her young nephews stated, 'there’s that crazy hospice lady!' in a fun-loving way."
Amber says there have been many times she's felt she's made a difference, not just for patients, but their families who appreciated the companionship she provided to their loved ones.
"It feels so good to try and help others during that time," she says.
When the pandemic started, EveryStep Hospice paused in-person volunteer visits. Amber hopes to return to normal activities soon. In the meantime, she'll continue to encourage others to volunteer.
"For me, it has been a very rewarding experience where I can make a difference in a positive way during a not-so-positive time in people’s lives. I love it," she says.
If you're interested in volunteering for EveryStep, visit our volunteer page.