Hospice volunteers play important role in care

Jo Magram volunteers weekly at The Villages Hospice House, a facility of Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, to show gratitude for how lovingly the staff treated her late husband, Rick Magram.

Every Thursday morning, Jo Magram and Ralph Bischoff drive to The Villages Hospice House.

Once inside the 24-bed facility, which is part of Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, they part ways.

As a volunteer server, Bischoff visits all occupied rooms, jotting down breakfast and drink orders for patients, family members and friends.

In the kitchen, Magram might start another pot of coffee while she fires up the waffle iron and preheats the oven.

Between 8 a.m. and noon, she prepares everything from scrambled eggs and bacon to sausage gravy, muffins and cereals with fruit.

“They can have anything they want,” Magram said. “I will make whatever they want. If they want a hamburger for breakfast, I’ll make

one for them.”

Volunteers like Magram and Bischoff are vital to the daily operations of the hospice house.

“Volunteers do three shifts a day, seven days a week,” said Heidi Gaumet, volunteer specialist for Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care. “Our staff really needs them.”

And the staff is willing to accommodate volunteer needs.

Magram wanted to help but didn’t want to go to patients’ rooms, so they found her a job elsewhere.

“We make accommodations for our volunteers,” Gaumet said. “We understand that patient rooms remind Jo of her own loss. We understand that. The fact that Jo is cooking is amazing. That’s so important because the staff would have to prepare meals if we didn’t have volunteers. And that cuts into patient care.”

Every time Magram enters the hospice house, her reason for being there is on her heart.

Magram and her husband, Rick, moved from New York to the Village of Sunset Pointe in 2010.

“We agreed that we had finally reached paradise,” Magram said.

Then Rick was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The shock of that news was understandably difficult.

Rick spent his final days under hospice care.

“The staff took such good care of my husband,” Magram said. “The doctor would lean down and talk so patiently to Rick. He is such a gentle soul.”

She returned to The Villages Hospice House a few months after Rick passed away.

“I didn’t feel comfortable going in the rooms,” Magram said. “I still don’t go in patient rooms, but I wanted to pay them back somehow for the way they helped us.”

Five years later, Magram still shows up every Thursday to cook.

She has been in a relationship with Bischoff for about three years now. He joined her Thursday-morning commitment last year.

“They direly need help at the hospice house,” Bischoff said. “They always need volunteers. If I wasn’t Jo’s server, then she would have to take the orders, make the food then deliver it, too.”

Initially, he started volunteering to help Magram. Now, Bischoff continues to volunteer because he sees how crucial it is and how hard the staff works.

“(The staff members) are absolutely angels,” Magram said. “Anything I can do to help I will do.”

For more info about volunteering with The Villages Hospice House, contact Gaumet at 352-751-3110.

Staff writer Sherri Coner can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5400, or sherri.coner@thevillagesmedia.com.