In an effort to recognize volunteers and staff who dedicate their work and energy to hospice care, Delaware Hospice nominated its first Delaware Hospice Heroes this month.
Nominations for the Delaware Hospice Hero Awards were launched on Facebook, asking locals to nominate a volunteer or staff member who was an inspiration and deserved recognition for their hard work.
The two nominated heroes, Peggy Garrett-Davis and Al Morris, were awarded free tickets to the Sussex County Festival of Trees Holiday Gala.
Both Garrett-Davis and Morris work with Delaware Hospice in unique capacities, mostly outside of the building, creating personal relationships with clients, grieving families and caregivers.
When Ocean View resident Peggy Garrett-Davis lost her husband seven years ago, she found solace in the Delaware Hospice New Beginnings grief luncheons.
After about a year of participating in the luncheons, which bring together locals who have lost loved ones, Garrett-Davis knew that she wanted to become more involved with helping others through the grieving process.
Garrett-Davis’ deep involvement with the program and positive outlook for those going through bereavement led to her nomination for the Delaware Hospice Hero Award for an outstanding volunteer.
After working as a nurse for 41 years, she wasn’t interested in working with patient care, and found her calling to help with administrative work and the organization of the New Beginnings program on a volunteer basis.
Her involvement with the group blossomed into relationships with the participants, which have grown from two dozen to nearly 70 regular attendants and 200 on the membership list. And while she wasn’t looking for more than that, Garrett-Davis also found a relationship to help her move forward with her life.
Jim Davis, who lost his wife of 52 years, was hesitant to attend the New Beginnings luncheons, but with some encouragement of a friend, he started to attend about a year after the loss of his wife.
Garrett-Davis and Davis interacted in a friendly way, chatting at the luncheons and sharing in the inspirational stories and jokes that are told every Thursday. One day, after sitting next to each other during the luncheon, Davis decided to go for it. He called Garrett-Davis later that evening for a date. Six months later, they were happily married.
Garrett-Davis said that her story of finding love after loss is a perfect example of how working through the grieving process is like working toward a new beginning.
“I certainly was not looking for anybody or anything,” Garrett-Davis said. “He certainly was not looking for anyone. While it is sad at times, other times it can be very happy. Now we’ve had several couples who have met through the bereavement program and gotten married. It truly is a new beginning for them.”
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When Rehoboth Beach resident Al Morris was interviewed for a position with the Delaware Hospice Transitions Program, he admitted that he had no experience in healthcare.
“They wanted someone who didn’t have a background in healthcare,” Morris explained.
But it was his experience, acquired through years of working in various jobs that made him the perfect candidate to launch the Transitions Program, which assists those who need help connecting with community resources before they are ready for hospice.
“Everybody’s situation is different and you never know what a person or family will need until you go and meet with them,” Morris said. “It’s a really interesting job. It’s a window into the future – it motivates me to see how important it is to take care of myself, mentally and physically.”
Morris spent time working in drug abuse clinics, the Sussex Correctional Institution, as a career guidance counselor and director of the adult education program at Sussex Technical High School, as well as serving 21 years in the military through the Army, Air Force and Delaware National Guard.
His experiences working with people from all backgrounds, ages and needs made him the perfect fit to help guide Sussex County clients, families and caregivers to the needed resources, which is why he was chosen for the staff member Delaware Hospice Hero Award.
“I think it helps you to be able to work with just about anybody,” Morris said. “I’ve experienced everything from being eye-to-eye with a murderer to working with these folks who need help through our Transitions Program. You’re able to talk to and relate to anybody, young and old.”
And just like Garrett-Davis, it’s the relationships that he’s formed through his 11 years working as the supervisor of Delaware Hospice’s Transitions Program.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people and they’re very thankful for something as simple as a phone call,” he said. “It’s not just the clients, but the caregivers and the families. There are a lot of people out there who need a lot of help. Sometimes you have your days and all you can do is try to help the best you can, and while it can get frustrating, for the most part I see wonderful folks and I’ve learned that we just do the best we can to help these folks in any way we can.”