April 21, 2022
National Volunteer Week: Meet EveryStep Volunteer Sara Brinker
April 17 to 23 is National Volunteer Week. EveryStep’s hundreds of volunteers provide care and support to thousands of patients, clients, families and our own staff every year. Our volunteers play an important role in EveryStep’s ability to live out its mission.
Sara Brinker is a volunteer at EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House hospice home in Des Moines. She started her volunteer work in December of 2019 — and then COVID happened. She says she’s happy to be able to resume volunteering now.
“I have always enjoyed listening to people and hearing their stories, and as I see my parents age and age myself, it has become more and more important to me that people are allowed to revisit their personal stories and memories as they transition into death,” says Sara. “I also feel strongly about being truly present for people when they need you, in all stages of life, whatever that may be. When I heard about EveryStep Hospice, all of these facets fit together for me and I felt it would be a good place for me to share my time and talents.”
With her son almost a senior in high school and less dependent upon her, Sara felt she had a little more time to give to others. EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House was where she chose to share that time.
“Kavanagh House is truly a unique and beautiful facility,” says Sara. “I basically do whatever the nurses and aides need help with — washing and folding laundry, answering call lights, changing linens, turning patients, sitting with patients — I’m happy to help out wherever they need me.”
Sara says she feels appreciated and supported in her volunteer work. “I mostly enjoy the friendly faces of the staff and residents. Everyone is so very kind and appreciative of the time you are giving volunteering. I also really enjoy my volunteer partner, Vicki — she’s awesome and I love working with her!”
One of her most memorable moments as an EveryStep volunteer began unexpectedly. “A patient of EveryStep who lived alone and had no family here was needing a haircut and didn’t have a driver to get him where he needed to go. Our wonderful volunteer coordinator, Susan, put out a call for help and I said I would be willing to help him out,” remembers Sara.
“Well, the patient and I did some texting back and forth and he asked for a ride to his haircut a day or two before Christmas! In the back of my mind, I was thinking there are a million things I ‘need’ to be doing before Christmas, and taking someone to a haircut really wasn’t one of them; but I happily did it anyway because I knew this was obviously important to him.
“The haircut day came and went and we had a lovely time together. He was just so appreciative of my help and so open to talk about his diagnosis and life. From this meeting, a friendship grew and we would text back and forth. He always said my messages just made his day! That made me feel so good. I was helping make him smile, but he was definitely doing the same for me!”
In February, Sara could tell by his text messages that he wasn’t doing well. He was having trouble breathing, so Sara contacted her volunteer coordinator to see if his care team could check on him, which they immediately. The patient and team agreed he should be transferred to EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House, the hospice home where Sara volunteers.
“I was out of state the week he was going to transfer to the house, but we were texting back and forth a lot. The plan was that I would go see him immediately at the house when I got back into town. He was very happy about that,” remembers Sara. The gentleman arrived at EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House on a Friday and passed away that same day, before Sara returned to town.
She says she felt very sad, but was also happy. “I was sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye to him, but I was so glad he was at peace and comfortable, and that the loving staff at Kavanagh House were with him in his final moments. It was just a really unique and beautiful journey with this man — one I won’t forget.”
When she’s not volunteering, Sara, who is a nurse, works part-time at an esthetics studio. She also loves to travel with her husband and son, most recently to Iceland! She also stays busy with college visits and graduation plans, and loves to digitally scrapbook.
EveryStep has a variety of volunteer needs across Iowa. If you are interested in volunteering with EveryStep, visit https://www.everystep.org/volunteer.
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 www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.