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She sees Hospice work as ministry

November 30, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

Name: Betty Jo Stout

Age: 73

Address: Stout lives in Hedgesville, W.Va., with her husband of 51 years, Earl. The couple has five grown children, 15 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter

Occupation, or former occupation if retired: Stout retired in 1995 after teaching for 30 years in Anne Arundel County, Md., and in England.

Where do you volunteer: Hospice of the Panhandle

What prompted you to begin volunteering?: After moving to West Virginia in 1996, Stout said, she felt the need to give something back to the community and began volunteering with the Rescue Mission and a Baptist church.

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Still, she wanted to work one-on-one with people. After seeing a notice in a newspaper that Hospice needed volunteers to work with patients, she enrolled in the organization's training program.

"I've always been interested in elderly people because I was reared with elderly people," Stout said.

What do you do with Hospice?: Expecting to work with children in bereavement, Stout instead was told people were needed to visit patients in nursing homes. Having assisted family members in nursing homes, Stout was not intimidated by that environment.

"Now I've (also) become known as an 11-hour volunteer," meaning Stout - who considers her work with Hospice to be a ministry - is called when a patient is dying. "The 11th-hour is very comforting because I consider death as a celebration."

While sitting with a dying patient, Stout will talk to them, read the Bible or another book to them if they'd like, hold their hand and discuss memories.

She makes a point of calling them by their names, a small touch that she said people seem to appreciate.

If the person is with family, she also will talk to and try to comfort them.

Stout tries to visit her regular patients at least once a week, and has sat with a patient for as long as 18 hours.

She also has helped Hospice with mailings, baking, health fairs and its annual holiday Light Up your Life tree program at Martinsburg Mall.

What is your biggest reward as a volunteer? The satisfaction that comes from knowing she has helped make someone's life a little lighter is Stout's biggest reward, she said.

She said she also meets interesting people. One patient who was born and raised in Martinsburg shared the town's history with her.

Another explained working in a one-room school in the area, while Stout helped another patient write a life history for her great-grandson, whom the patient knew she would not live to see.




If you want to volunteer:

Pam Shanklin, volunteer coordinator for Hospice of the Panhandle, said that the organization never has enough volunteers and in particular is seeking people who have an interest in patient care.

"Our program is growing so rapidly," Shanklin said. "It's impossible to train volunteers fast enough."

For more information, call Hospice at 304-264-0406.

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