June 30, 2020
Providing Comfort With Sweet Treats: Volunteers Heather Abuhl and Mary Iliff
Editor's Note: While our dedicated baking volunteers have had to put their talents on hold during the pandemic, they eagerly look forward to once again being able to provide comfort food to families of EveryStep hospice patients. Here's a story highlighting two such dedicated volunteers.
Heather Abuhl, who first volunteered for EveryStep for several years starting in 2015, loves bringing cookies and other small treats to EveryStep’s Kavanagh House on 56th street, providing staff and families of hospice patients with a little bit a comfort during what's often a difficult time.
"A baked good is somewhat comforting in itself," Heather says. "It's nice to not have vending machine items while you're spending time with family, and all of life's other tasks."
Heather first discovered EveryStep Hospice and the volunteer opportunities afforded by the organization online while looking for a way to give back to the community.
"Baking is my passion and I found that EveryStep would accept home baked goods for the family area of the hospice house," she says. "It just fit."
While Heather likes to mix up her baked goods of choice, she often leans toward making iced cookies.
"That style, I'm a little selective on what the houses would want," she says. "It can be hard to think of a theme that might be appropriate for the families during their difficult times."
For instance, in January, Heather says she might make snowflakes. Other times, she sticks to drop cookies or even cupcakes.
In addition to baking for the hospice house, Heather will often sign up to provide cookies or other items for EveryStep's grief support groups.
"I understand the initiatives and purpose of what EveryStep does and I'm happy to do it," she says. "It's one less thing these families have to think of and it can provide a little retreat for the families."
Heather encourages others who might have a desire to volunteer with EveryStep to simply reach out.
"I would say that my volunteer commitment with EveryStep fills in itself a need for me too," she says. "It's something I like to do. You should do with what you have, and I have a passion for baking. If someone likes to bake, that could be an opportunity."
For nearly a decade, Mary Iliff has been providing the patients and families at EveryStep's Kavanagh House on 56th Street with a sweet treat during their visits.
"There was an ad in the newspaper for volunteer opportunities. One was a request for people to bake," Mary recalls of first discovering EveryStep. "I enjoy baking and I thought that was something I could do."
Since then, Mary has been bringing her baked goods to the hospice house on the last Saturday of every month.
"I mix it up quite a bit," she says. "I just dropped off Andes chocolate mint cookies and recently took some cupcakes for EveryStep's grief group. I just make whatever pops into my head."
While Mary says that baking is fairly simple, she knows it's appreciated.
"I've spent a fair amount of time hanging around hospitals for hours on end, and know family members appreciate it," she says.
"It's pretty easy if you like to bake, it's a no-brainer," she says. "Anything I can do to give back is rewarding. There's nothing terribly taxing on my part. It's a win-win."
If you or someone you know has a love of baking and is interested in volunteering for hospice patients and their families, please contact a volunteer coordinator at an EveryStep Hospice office near you.