A visitor, coming for the ﬁrst time to our community, would be hard-pressed to say that Delta County residents aren’t some of the most giving and community-oriented people around. Of the hundreds of civic, faith-based and community organizations in the area, all with the intent of making the world a better place to live on a local, national and international level, people across the county dedicate their time and money to help a variety of causes.
One such organization is Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado. There are 140 volunteers currently logging hours in Delta County; over 1,000 people volunteer for Hospice in Delta, Montrose and Mesa counties.
Here is a brief look at a few of Hospice’s dedicated volunteers who work in the Delta County program.
Russ Reger is a familiar face around town. He’s lived in Delta most of his life, and is a co-owner of Grand Mesa Discount. But for the past ﬁve or so years, he’s worn another hat.
Several years ago, when a group was trying to raise money to start a hospice service in Delta County, an acquaintance from the chamber of commerce asked Reger to be on the steering committee. He helped raise funds to bring the service to the area, and has stayed with the organization since.
He does odd jobs around the home, sits with bed-ridden patients and generally lends a helping hand and an ear to bend. “I’m there to help out where I can,” he said of his work.
Reger has mowed lawns, and once sat with a man whose wife needed an exercise break. He’s heard his share of stories — from a musician and composer, from a man who procured meat for a European government, from a former New York City chef, from others. Reger remembers that one man, the chef, always spoke of how he looked forward to meeting his wife again in the after life.
One of Reger’s ﬁrst patients was a man at Willow Tree Care Center. The man loved to watch and feed the birds that congregated at the center, so each week, Reger brought the man a bag of bird feed and sat with him while he fed the birds.
He’s taken patients out to lunch, on drives, and on trips to hospitals or doctors’ ofﬁces for treatment. “They’re all great,” he said of his patients.
His tasks range, he said, and he does whatever the patient or their family asks him to do. There have been no unusual requests for his help, nothing special, just everyday, run-of-the-mill chores that need done around the house, and a bit of companionship. He ﬁnds out what the patient is interested in doing or talking about, and then does or talks about those things.
Reger has also had patients that he’s known prior to their coming to Hospice. “When you’ve lived here all your life, you know the patients anyway,” he said.
The Hospice staff asks that he volunteers a minimum of one hour a week to his patients, of which he sees only one at a time, until that patient improves or passes on. It’s easy, though, Reger said, to spend more than a short hour a week with a patient, especially if he’s on a trip to Grand Junction, delivering a patient to a medical facility for tests or procedures. Reger says it’s no big deal. “You just have to go with the ﬂow. It’s just part of the territory.”
There are three reasons Reger loves his job as a Hospice volunteer. He likes helping the patient. He likes helping the patient’s family, likes helping make their days easier. His third reason, which he calls his selﬁsh reason, is that volunteering for Hospice is a very satisfying experience. “I thoroughly enjoy it,” he said.
Volunteering time for an organization like Hospice, one that deals with loss on almost a daily basis, probably isn’t for everyone. But the job is not hard for him, Reger said, though some might ﬁnd the constant cycle of losing patients who over time become friends difﬁcult. He said he’s able to move on and go right to another patient. It’s not hard to put his problems on the shelf the instant he pulls into a patient’s driveway. “I try to brighten their life for those hours,” he said.
Some patients he’s only been able to visit with once before they passed away. Others he’s seen for months. Reger spent time with one patient for two and a half years. He’s lost count of how many patients he’s worked with over the years.
He said he anticipates volunteering with Hospice for a good while yet.
Friends Stanella Delgado and Sandra Barrie chose to give their time to the Heirlooms for Hospice store, an upscale re-sale boutique in downtown Delta.
Delgado has volunteered at the store just over a year. She started working as a clerk just after the store opened.
Three years ago, her mother-in-law was ill and needed Hospice care where she lived in California. That experience, Delgado said, led her to volunteering with the local program. “They were very good to her,” she said. “I wanted to do what I could.”
Barrie came to Hospice after losing several close friends who had utilized the program. “Hospice was a great thing for them,” she said. She also began just after the store opened.
The two volunteer once a week at the Heirlooms store. They sort incoming merchandise, price and display the house wares, clothing, jewelry and other items, and assist customers with their purchases.
Delgado and Barrie shop at both the Montrose and Grand Junction Heirlooms for Hospice stores.
When they heard one was opening in Delta, they both jumped at the chance to volunteer. And while they still shop at the stores in Montrose and Grand Junction, they are both very loyal to the Delta store and its customers. “I think it’s the best store around,” Delgado said with a laugh.
Working in the retail end of Hospice still allows Delgado and Barrie the chance to interact with those in the community whose lives have been touched by the program. People whose family members received Hospice care will come to the store to donate items and will often stay and chat with the clerks.
Both women have a long history of volunteering for their communities, in a variety of ways. Delgado has volunteered at the museum in Delta, Altrusa, and in groups that help children through art and performance art. Barrie, through St. Lukes Episcopal Church, volunteered her sewing talents for nursing home residents, helping with clothing repairs.
“I’ve always helped whenever I could,” Delgado said, and encouraged others to volunteer their time as well. “It gives you a terriﬁc feeling,” she said.
Both are proud of their “times three” volunteering. They give when they donate items to the store; they give when they volunteer their time to work; and they give when they purchase items from the store, almost on a weekly basis. Barrie laughed about how at the end of the shift, several of the clerks stand in line to buy new things.
Bob and Nyla Storch also volunteer their time for Hospice. Having ministered together for several years in the area, Nyla said it felt only natural to make the transition to Hospice volunteers together. They started with the organization in 2004. Bob’s father received Hospice care in Chicago, and both were impressed with the level of care and the attention he received.
“It is an outstanding organization, and people are just great to work with,” Bob said.
He is a member of the advisory board, which reviews the local program and makes recommendations to the full board. He works at the Heirlooms store, and also does patient care.
He had a patient that grew up in the same area as he did — the northern Great Plains area — and the two were able to talk about the area and even knew some of the same people.
“I’ve always felt that we need to help others,” Bob said. In addition to his days volunteering with Hospice, he volunteers at the Delta County Correctional Facility working with the chaplains and in the Life Learning and Kairos groups. He’s on a team that deals with teen suicide prevention and intervention, and is a deacon at his church.
Nyla is also active in their church. She also works in the Heirlooms store and does patient care. She’s gone grocery shopping for patients, and has made birthday and anniversary cakes for patients or their families.
One woman loved to crochet, so Nyla brought needles and yarn, and the two crocheted together. Many of her patients also utilize the Meals on Wheels program, so she and Bob have delivered meals.
Sometimes Nyla and Bob visit a patient together; other times, they each see their own patient.
“The beneﬁts are so rewarding,” Nyla said. “Whether you spend ﬁve minutes or 45 minutes, the patients are so appreciative.”
“It’s just being there and being a friend,” Bob added.
“I don’t see us ever quitting,” Nyla said. “Until we have to.”
More volunteers are always welcomed at Hospice. Volunteers are needed especially at the Heirlooms store and for patient care. People may choose to volunteer for bereavement care also, or for speciﬁc fund raising events. For more information, call 874-6823.