Finding A Passion For Hospice: Volunteer Janni Fitzpatrick

Janni Fitzpatrick first became interested in hospice care in the '90s when her father was dying of cancer.

"I took care of him at home, and there really wasn't any hospice [around here] then," the EveryStep Hospice volunteer recalls.

When EveryStep Hospice began offering services in the Mount Pleasant area, she joined the advisory board.

After retiring from those duties in 2014, Janni sought the opportunity to visit patients and help in the office.

"I've been involved for a long time," Janni says, noting that she had another personal experience with hospice care when her husband received care in 2011.

"It was diagnosed as very advanced melanoma," Janni says. "He only lived three months and I was working at the time, but I took a leave to take care of him. I had hospice come in also, to check on him, and a chaplain visited. That meant a lot to me."

When Janni retired, she knew she wanted to keep busy and that volunteering with EveryStep Hospice could help her do that.

"I always liked nursing and this keeps me close to that," she says, noting that she doesn't provide hands-on care to patients like before but still feels she's making an impact. "It makes me feel good to do things for other people."

Over the years, Janni has made quite an impact, not only on the patients she visits but the EveryStep staff she assists.

"We are blessed to have her,” Machelle Lowe, EveryStep Hospice volunteer coordinator, says. "We appreciate how she juggles her farm, her family, the grandkids and still finds time for EveryStep."

"Janni is devoted and kind," Machelle Lowe, EveryStep Hospice volunteer coordinator, says. "She provides companionship, light housekeeping, a calm presence and her friendship to our patients and families. We appreciate how she juggles her farm, her family, the grandkids and still finds time for EveryStep."

The feeling is mutual, according to Janni.

"I've just gotten to know the staff well," she says. "I've made good friends."

As for visiting patients, Janni knows it isn't for everyone, but it's an aspect of volunteering that she thoroughly enjoys. 

"I think they would get a lot more out of it almost than they give," she says. "Knowing you're doing good for someone makes you feel better."

While volunteer visits with patients have been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, Janni encourages people to look into the many types of volunteering opportunities available with EveryStep.

If people don't feel comfortable going into someone's home or visiting them in a nursing home, there's still plenty of things they can do, she says, noting they could sew, bake, help with office projects, or they can help with various fundraising initiatives.

"I know how much help hospice is when you need it," she says. "And I wanted to give back when they helped me."

Interested in sharing your time and talents? Learn about volunteer opportunities with EveryStep.