Teens make a difference for those nearing the end

April 25, 2006|by HIRA ZEB

"Never talk defeat. Use words like hope, belief, faith, victory." - Norman Vincent Peale, author of "The Power of Positive Thinking."

Two local teens have come to know the meaning of these words through regular volunteering with Hospice of Washington County Inc., which provides compassionate palliative and end-of-life care for people with terminal illnesses, and offers support for families dealing with terminal illness, grief and bereavement.

Diana Escobar, 15, a student at South Hagerstown High School, and Nevin Harshman, 15, who attends Clear Spring High School, have kicked off Hospice's new youth mentoring program.

The two teens work with an adult mentor, Linda Marshall, a volunteer with Hospice, to talk with patients and provide friendly faces.


Diana and Nevin work with Hospice to fulfill school requirements to volunteer in their community. Hospice has worked with a family member of each volunteer.

"Hospice helped my great-grandma out a lot, and I knew they were the one to choose," Nevin said.

Each week, Diana and Nevin spend time with Hospice patients such as William "Bill" Shaffer, a resident at Julia Manor Health Care Center in Hagerstown, and talk about school, friends and family.

"Showing them pictures and telling them about your own life brings back memories and helps them connect with our generation," Diana says.

Volunteering not only helps Hospice clients, but it also provides Diana and Nevin with a sense of accomplishment. They say volunteering with Hospice has helped them gain social skills that will be useful in the future when they are expected to work with different sorts of people.

"After doing this for some time, I feel less shy and am more able to interact with people," says Diana. "It makes you feel good when you help."

Shaffer, 59, has lived at Julia Manor for nearly a year. In the past 12 months, he has had seven heart attacks, says Shaffer's daughter, Amy Brooks of Martinsburg, W.Va. Doctors have given Shaffer a prognosis of less than six months to live.

Linda Marshall, Nevin's and Diana's mentor, has been coming in to visit Shaffer for about a month now. She came in the first day armed with the 1964 South Hagerstown High School yearbook and hours of childhood memories, since Marshall and Shaffer attended South High at the same time.

Marshall guides Shaffer in reminiscing about his glory days in the South High marching band. Shaffer says he was quite the trumpet player and played in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City and President Kennedy's inauguration parade.

"She's a good friend who comes in to visit and shoot the breeze," he says.

Afterward, Marshall talks about the value of Hospice's care.

"This man has a colorful history," she says. "It brings joy to him to review all that he has experienced. He's still very much alive."

Marshall says Nevin and Diana enjoy talking with Shaffer.

"They're two of the greatest kids in the world," she says.

Shaffer's daughter, Amy Brooks of Martinsburg, W.Va., says she appreciates Hospice and teen volunteers Diana and Nevin. She counts on them to be with her dad on days when she cannot visit.

Volunteers of almost all ages can volunteer with Hospice. Students interested in volunteering should contact their high school counselor or call Dawn Johns at 301-791-6360 or or visit for more information. There is a training session in June.

This week is National Volunteer Week. Volunteering makes a difference in the community. And besides, it builds excellent karma.

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