Hospice volunteer comforts the grieving

December 27, 2001

Hospice volunteer comforts the grieving

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize individuals and groups who make the holidays and every day better for others.

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

The holidays can be a rough time for people who have lost loved ones during the year.

Volunteers like JoAnn Domenico can make the loss easier to handle.

Domenico and other volunteers from Hospice of the Panhandle put up 13 Christmas trees in the Martinsburg Mall this year as part of a special remembrance project that also serves as a fund-raiser for the organization.

For $10, people who have lost loved ones can have the names of those people placed on the tree.

Some may consider it "just a piece of paper," said Domenico, but not those who have the names of loved ones on the tree.


Domenico recalled a woman who went up to one of the trees in the mall two years ago and found her husband's name near the top, but couldn't reach it to touch it.

Domenico held the woman's hand.

While holding the woman's hand, Domenico kissed her other hand and reached to the top of the tree and touched the card.

"She said, 'You will never know what that means to me,''' Domenico said.

"You wouldn't believe the healing that goes on around these trees," Domenico said.

Domenico's volunteer work for Hospice of the Panhandle goes on year around.

Every year, Domenico packages 375 bags of cookies that are distributed to Hospice volunteers as a way to say thanks for their work. She helps organize an annual memorial service for families who have lost loved ones and volunteers her time to organize conferences and fund-raisers for Hospice, which offers physical, emotional and spiritual support to people facing a terminal illness.

"I love being a volunteer there. I've found my bliss," said Domenico, who lives in Martinsburg with her husband Frank.

Among the 13 "Light Up a Life" Christmas trees at the Martinsburg Mall this year, Domenico has erected an "America's Tree," where people can make donations to honor veterans, police, firefighters and people in similar careers.

Tomorrow: Salvation Army volunteer Gary Dawson

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