Longtime EveryStep Volunteers Now Benefit from EveryStep Services

Doug and Mary Hedberg

After more than a decade of supporting EveryStep through their volunteer work, EveryStep now has the privilege of supporting Doug and Mary Hedberg with hospice care.

The Hedbergs dedicated their time and energy to EveryStep volunteer work from 1990 to 2005. “I started out making deliveries — equipment, medications, anything like that. It was about a half-day each week,” says Mary. “We loved it!” Eventually Doug took a day off from work every week just to volunteer with EveryStep.

Doug added work at EveryStep’s Kavanagh House hospice home to his volunteer schedule. “We started taking kitchen supplies from EveryStep’s Bright Kavanagh Center to Kavanagh House because the kitchen at Kavanagh House was tiny at that time,” remembers Doug. “We happened to have a van, so we would just load up to make deliveries.”

Doug’s service also included maintenance work at EveryStep’s properties, including painting, fixing gutters and pulling weeds. Soon, Mary joined in by visiting EveryStep Hospice patients. “We would run errands for them, or just sit and talk,” says Mary, who fondly remembers one patient that always requested they sit and eat ice cream with him.

Mary says the key to successful volunteer work is dependability. “You can’t just not show up. You treat it like a job — people are counting on you!”

Married for 70 years, Mary and Doug met while both worked at Braniff Airways in Des Moines. Mary was at the ticket counter and Doug was part of the ground crew.

Their son lives with his family in Wisconsin, and their daughter and her family live in Des Moines. Their children help with their parents’ needs, but Mary’s increased dependence on a wheelchair meant a move to a retirement community and an apartment without stairs. When it came time to move, the Hedbergs again thought of EveryStep, donating nearly everything in their home to EveryStep Giving Tree.

“We called [EveryStep Giving Tree] and just said, ‘We're going to move. Would you be interested in some of our things?’ and they took everything! We didn’t have to do anything else. We’ve been repaid many times for our volunteering,” says Mary.

The Hedbergs stay active in the retirement community in which they live but at age 95, Mary’s mobility has continued to decline.

And EveryStep Hospice is now there for Doug and Mary at their home.

“The most important thing is the bath because [Doug] used to help me, and it's hard. The aide comes Monday, Wednesday and Friday and gives me a bath and does my nails and just everything. And then the nurse checks once a week,” says Mary. “I've got somebody here constantly just checking in. They just called to see if we've got enough supplies for the weekend. They’re wonderful!”

Mary and Doug, also age 95, are often asked about the secret to their long lives. “Our answer is volunteering,” says Mary. “We’d still be volunteering if we could!”

EveryStep Hospice volunteers are vital to EveryStep’s mission. Some of the hospice-focused volunteer opportunities include:

  • Providing companionship to patients by reading, playing cards or offering a comforting presence.
  • Assisting patients and their families with chores and outdoor yardwork.
  • Transporting patients to doctors’ appointments, delivering essentials or running errands.
  • Music volunteers sing, play musical instruments or play CDs for patients’ enjoyment.
  • Veteran-to-Veterans volunteers are paired with patients who have also served our country. These specialized volunteers provide companionship while talking, reading and sitting with patients.
  • 11th Hour volunteers are specially trained individuals who can provide a quiet presence during the final hours of life while offering companionship and support for family members.

There are many opportunities for volunteers to connect with peers, contribute to the community and enrich the lives of others.

To learn about volunteering opportunities in the communities served by EveryStep Hospice, visit https://www.everystep.org/volunteer/get-started.

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 wonderful 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.