Making An Impression: EveryStep Volunteer Linda Pieper

While Linda Pieper has only been a volunteer with the EveryStep Hospice team in Mount Pleasant for a little over a year, she's already entrenched in the organization's mission.

Pieper, who works as a music teacher, became interested in volunteering for hospice after her parents and in-laws received hospice care.

"The caretakers and volunteers who came were so wonderful," she said. "In the back of my mind, I was thinking of how to pay it forward or pay it back. People were so kind to us, I wanted to pass that on."

As luck would have it, Linda had been talking to a few friends after church about volunteering and mentioned her desire to help with hospice when she turned around and saw an EveryStep flyer on a bulletin board.

"It had tear offs, and I took one," she said. "I thought, 'Okay, this must be something I'm meant to do.’"

The Mount Pleasant-based EveryStep Hospice team provides care and support to patients in eight southeast Iowa counties, and the program offers a wealth of opportunities for volunteers. Linda said she's found several areas she's interested in contributing to eventually. But for now, she's visiting with patients.

So far, Linda has been meeting with three patients every Friday.

"One lady that I see is totally bed-ridden, she communicates every once in a while," Linda said. "When I first started, there was very little communication. I'd just holder hand and talk to her about various things."

As time passed, Linda said, the woman began speaking to her.

"I'd ask her questions, like, ‘is there anyone you want to pray for?’ And out of the clear blue she said her mother and her sister. To me, that's someone that was nonverbal and she started talking to me and opening up."

Before that interaction, Linda was questioning whether she was doing a good job being a volunteer.

"She said to me one day, 'do you know you bring me a lot of comfort?,'" Linda recalled. "That made me almost cry."

One of other patients Linda visits happens to have been a professional musician. While the man can no longer play, he and Linda have been able to connect over their shared love of music.

"He'll talk about his experiences and traveling with the band," she said. "We definitely have a shared love."

More recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the temporary suspension of volunteer visits at EveryStep, Pieper has made sure those she visits still know they are in her thoughts. 

In fact, she sent each of the patients she sees a special note, with a photo of her holding a craft heart. The message notes that she can't wait to continue visits once the virus clears up. 

While Linda knew for quite some time that she wanted to give back through hospice volunteering, she never realized how rewarding it would be.

"You go in thinking that you are going to help them, but a lot of times you come away thinking, ‘they have given a lot to me’. I think, 'okay, I'm going to help them, but there's several times I've visited with them and I've come away feeling more blessed in many ways."

It's a feeling Linda hopes others can have some day.

"People should be open to the fact that life will nudge them where they need to go," she said. "I was very happy to be nudged toward EveryStep."

Interested in sharing your time and talents? Check out the volunteering opportunities available with EveryStep.