Volunteers are the Lifeline at Hospice Palliative Care Organizations

(Pictured above: Janette Mainey, Volunteer, Mariposa House Hospice; June Gunn, Bereavement Services Volunteer, Hospice Orillia; Anneke Sharpe, Volunteer, Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice)

ORILLIA, ON – Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice continue their series with part two of three focusing on what it is like to be a volunteer in Hospice Palliative Care. To help our readers get a better feel for what it is like on the front lines, we have interviewed three individuals who are currently volunteering in Hospice Palliative Care.

June Gunn, Bereavement Services Volunteer, Hospice Orillia  

June has been a Bereavement Services volunteer with Hospice Orillia for 13 years. She prides herself on being able to support others. It was following the death of her husband that she knew what she was meant to do – help others through their grief journey.

“The first year after moving to Orillia, I continued driving back and forth to Hospice Georgina. Needless to say, that didn’t work.” June stated. “It was while in attendance at a BBQ that I heard about Hospice Orillia, and here we are 13 years later.”

“When you can get a group together, they share about their losses. They learn they are not alone and become able to work through their loss and to help one another. It’s good to see the people who joined in at the beginning and to see where they get to by week 8.” June explained. “Bereavement support doesn’t work overnight. It’s about opening up and sharing and supporting one another. The ones that get the most out of the sessions have their ups and downs. We all grieve differently, depends on culture, relationship and how we were raised.”

For June it is about being able to help someone work through their grief, not get over it. “You will always have memories, good, bad or indifferent. Perhaps in time they will just be left with the good memories.”

When asked if she would recommend volunteering with Hospice Orillia June’s smile could be heard through the phone. “Of course I would, but only if they are dedicated. Individuals who are looking for grief and bereavement support need to know that you will be there for them. You cannot just say yes, I’ll run a group, and not show up. We need to walk alongside our clients during their journey.”

“Volunteering is not a short-term task that is there to fill a gap, it is something that will forever change you once you begin.” June added. “The best feeling is knowing that you have made a difference in the lives of your clients. Hospice Orillia does a fabulous job with all of the different programs and services they offer to the community. The people who work at Hospice Orillia are so giving and I love working with them.”

Janette Mainey, Volunteer, Mariposa House Hospice

Janette, a retired RN from England, currently runs a boarding kennel with her husband. As a retired RN, who ran a residential home for the elderly in England for 20 years, volunteering with Mariposa House Hospice was something that came naturally to her.

“When the pandemic hit, I had more time on my hands to really think about how I would like to become more involved in the community and it was then that based on my background, the best fit for me would have been at a hospice or hospital.” Janette explained how volunteering in Hospice Palliative Care came about for her after seeing an article about Dr. Si Lowry and the new build.

For Janette, it is knowing that she is able to help others that makes her position with Mariposa House Hospice special. “Being able to assist others is the most fulfilling role one can have.” Janette explains.

Being able to provide support to others at the end of their life has provided Janette the opportunity to support them in a way she was never able to support her parents as they died at a young age. There was one particular gentleman who stood out in her mind.

“While volunteering one Sunday evening, the husband of one of the residents was in. He was a particularly intriguing individual who could be demanding at times.” Janette explained. “I absolutely adored him. I helped him out quite a bit while his wife was receiving care; on that particular Sunday, I had helped him with his jacket and getting a taxi. While we waited for his taxi, he thanked me for all my help, which was a big moment for him. When he thanked me, I felt like I had made a difference in his life; when what he didn’t realize is that he made a difference in mine.”

One thing that was perfectly clear from the interview with Janette is that we will all need end of life care at some point. It takes a special kind of person to volunteer in Hospice Palliative Care, those volunteers make a big difference for people when they are at the end of their life’s journey.

“I would hate to think that people couldn’t cope with my journey at end of life, so I want to be sure that I help others during their end of life.” Janette notes. “It’s not a lot of hours, and you really feel like you’ve made a difference, especially when someone says thank you. To those considering volunteering in Hospice Palliative Care I say open your mind and open your heart.”

Anneke Sharpe, Volunteer, Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice

For many in our community giving back is something that comes naturally. Anneke is no exception. She volunteers at both Mariposa House Hospice and Hospice Orillia. It was when her neighbour told her about volunteering at Hospice Orillia, that Anneke decided to jump in. As a retired nurse Anneke found a natural fit in Hospice Palliative Care.

“I, like many, originally thought that Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice were one and the same. It was during the volunteer training process at Hospice Orillia that I realised they were in fact two different organizations.” Anneke lamented. “When I heard that Mariposa House Hospice was ready to start interviewing volunteers, I wanted to be sure I put my skills to use and now provide support to both Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice.”

Both organizations rely heavily on their volunteers to ensure they are able to continue to provide support to the community. For Anneke, volunteering for both was something that just made sense to her. “The great thing about volunteering at both organizations is that I get to do a bit of everything.” Anneke stated.

“As a member of the Visiting Volunteer team at Hospice Orillia I have the pleasure of going into the clients’ home where I visit in a 1-on-1 setting. One of my main responsibilities is to assist clients with their Footprint projects. This involves conducting a series of interviews focused on their life, followed by transcribing the information into a story format that is ultimately compiled with photo’s that are provided by the client. To see the finished project, and to be able to deliver it to the client, warms my heart each time.”

“At Mariposa House Hospice being part of the reception team allows me the opportunity to not only greet the families as they arrive and see them out when they leave, but also have the opportunity to assist the care team. To see all the people, clients and staff, and know that you can help them using your skillset, makes me feel good.”

Anneke had the unique opportunity to follow a client through the Footprints project at Hospice Orillia and then into Mariposa House Hospice.

“Everett was a very social person with lots of humor. It was great to listen to his story. To see someone at end stage of life you don’t expect some of the stories that you hear. This was the case with Everett. To hear all of the things he had done and to know he trusted me with his stories, just went to show how much of a connection we had.”

“Unfortunately, I was unable to be there when Everett received his Footprints project book (due to COVID restrictions). It wasn’t until I was at Mariposa House Hospice that we reconnected” Anneke beamed. “When he saw me, you could see the excitement on his face. I was surprised to hear just how many people he shared the book with. He had shared it with the entire team as well as other patients at Mariposa House Hospice. It made me feel so proud, and good, to know that I was able to help him tell his story. When I went to visit Everett he had his book there with him in his room.”

In the end, Anneke wants to remind readers not to be afraid. There are people from all walks of life volunteering at Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice; you can contribute however you feel comfortable. You may be just what the person needs.

“Being a social person and having a great personality is all you really need to volunteer in Hospice Palliative Care. I suggest people try to see if it is a fit.” Anneke noted. “For me it’s about hearing the clients’ stories. It helps me to help others who were not so lucky to have a great life like I have. At the end of the day, I feel good about what I’ve been able to do to help others.”

June, Janette and Anneke have all expressed how our readers could be surprised at how good it feels to volunteer in Hospice Palliative Care. You don’t need a talent, as long as you like to help others. We will all need someone in the end, you could be the person someone needs.

For information on how you can become a volunteer at Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice please visit them on their respective websites:



Be sure to read the final part of our series next week when we chat with the Executive Directors of Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice.