Make a Difference Day is Oct. 23: EveryStep volunteers make a difference every day

For more than 20 years, the fourth Saturday in October has been recognized as National Make a Difference Day; this day is now the largest national day of community service. From raking leaves to donating to a favorite charity, millions of Americans do what they can to make a difference in the lives of others.

National Make a Difference Day and every day, EveryStep volunteers make a difference in the lives of thousands of Iowans.

In the past year, nearly 600 volunteers donated thousands of hours to support EveryStep’s programs and services. Of that number, more than half (311) assisted EveryStep Hospice patients, their families and staff. “Hospice volunteers frequently state that volunteering is very rewarding,” said EveryStep Hospice Metro team volunteer coordinator Susan Joynt. “Most have been touched by hospice in some way and want to give back.”

Fellow EveryStep Hospice volunteer coordinator Angi Dodge says although she currently has 62 volunteers in training with the EveryStep Hospice team in Mount Ayr, there is always room for more. “We always have a need to see a patient, deliver food and run errands, give a caregiver a break or help with meals,” said Angi. “We can find something for everyone to do.”

Many other EveryStep volunteers work with EveryStep Grief & Loss Services; 550 volunteers donated more than 2,000 hours to EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda program in FY21, which included filling and delivering 550 Cheer Boxes. These boxes are provided to nominated individuals and families in December, when the holidays can intensify the grief of losing a loved one.

EveryStep’s Senior Companion program served 258 clients last fiscal year, with 43 volunteer companions providing 6,000 hours of visits and assistance to adults needing extra support to continue to live independently in their homes.

EveryStep volunteers are appreciated and celebrated. Last year, several volunteers were honored for their work, including:

  • Janni Fitzpatrick: Governor’s Volunteer award
  • Norma Jones: 15-year pin
  • Jerry Hampton, Faye Shaw, Grace Warin and Sue Larsen: 10-year pin
  • Kay Eich and Carol Krings: 5-year pin
  • Sheila Marler: 5-year baker
  • Deb Milligan: United Way of Central Iowa’s 2021 Individual Hand-Raiser Award

There are many current volunteer needs at EveryStep. Some of these include:

  • EveryStep Giving Tree thrift store: cashiers; cleaning and sizing shoes; cleaning furniture; help sorting, steaming and putting clothing on the sales floor.
  • EveryStep Hospice teams: direct patient care volunteers to make in-home visits or help out at EveryStep’s hospice houses in Creston and Des Moines.
  • EveryStep Hospice’s Veteran-to-Veteran program: military veterans are needed for this special service that pairs veterans who are volunteers with patients who have served our country. Veteran partners provide companionship while talking, reading and sitting with patients.

If you have a skill, one of EveryStep’s services or programs can likely use it, and every skill is important. “Providing companionship, assisting patients with tasks and household chores, pet visits, helping staff at the hospice house by doing laundry, greeting visitors, providing another set of hands for repositioning patients to make them more comfortable – these are all opportunities for volunteers,” said Susan.

“We try to address the needs of the body, mind and spirit of the patients and their families,” said Angi. “That means we have a lot of uses for our volunteers’ strengths. It takes a lot of people to truly meet the needs of each patient and family. We make a difference by immersing ourselves in the needs of others.”

If you are interested in volunteering with EveryStep, visit

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or, complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.