“You meet her once and she’s your friend for life,” Joan Dornan says of Renee Sierra. Renee is a Providence Hospice volunteer that has been visiting Joan for about a year at Park Place Health & Wellness Center of St. John. Joan is just one of several patients that Renee has visited through the Providence Hospice volunteer program.
Renee was inspired to begin volunteering with Providence Hospice in 2018 after her own mother needed hospice care. “I saw what a wonderful job they did with her and I just thought it was a beautiful thing,” she says.
She saw that hospice care wasn’t just about the end of a life. “It’s about loving a person, showing them respect and dignity,” Renee says. “I was just impressed with everybody’s role, from the person who came to clean her up to the person who checked on us.”
When Renee’s husband came across a volunteer opportunity with Providence Hospice, Renee began applying immediately, despite having some reservations. “I’m basically a shy person, and it was really hard at first,” she says. “But I’m comfortable now, and I plan on doing this forever.”
“I plan on doing this forever.”–Providence Hospice volunteer Renee Sierra
What she does is give her time. “We talk about everything—our kids, the weather, and she always asks about my new granddaughter,” Renee says. “Sometimes I’m there a half an hour, sometimes I’m there an hour and a half. It really depends on how she’s feeling, but the time just flies by.”
“She’s a wonderful person,” Joan says. “A loving, caring person who would give you the shirt off her back. We’ve become friends, and I know she cares about me.”
Renee appreciates the friendship, too. “Joan reminds me of my mom,” she says. “I think that’s why we’re so close. She has the same sense of humor as my mom, and we laugh a lot together.”
Renee has volunteered with other Providence Hospice patients, and sometimes the cost is high, but worthwhile. “I can’t separate myself from the people emotionally,” she says. “But I can get through that and be all right. They need me, and I’m there for them, and that matters.”
And being there for people is why Renee volunteers. “I find it very rewarding just to be there for people. Just for them to have someone to talk to,” she says. “And my goal is to be able to sit with people so they aren’t all alone at the end.”
Joan’s daughter Julie Mejia is a daily visitor, but having people fill in moments when she can’t be there makes a big difference for each family. “Joan is so close with her daughter,” Renee says. “I feel good about taking care of her mom for a few hours each month. That’s what I wanted for my mom.”
This is Renee’s first time volunteering, and she encourages anyone considering donating their time to give it a chance. “Go for it. If I did it, and I’m super shy, anyone can do it,” she says. “You can’t believe how rewarding it can be just to be there for another person.”
To learn more about Providence Hospice, go to www.ProvidenceHospice.com. To sign up to volunteer, go to www.VolunteerAtProvidence.com.