Empath Health Volunteers Support Grieving Families

Sandra Flowers (left) and Willie Tarver (right) standing outside of Empath Health’s St. Petersburg Community Service Center.

BY LASHANTE KEYS, Empath Health

ST. PETERSBURG — Grief is not an easy thing to deal with, yet it will impact most people at some point in their lives. Everyone heals from grief at their own pace, and some find it harder than others. What can make the difference, though, is knowing people care.

People like Empath Health volunteers Willie Tarver and Sandra Flowers.

Every month these ladies, and other bereavement volunteers like them, make dozens of phone calls to people whose loved one recently passed and was cared for by Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health. The six, nine, and 12-month check-in calls are an opportunity to reach out to a grieving family and offer reassurance someone is thinking about them.

Both Tarver and Flowers started volunteering with Empath Health almost seven years ago through the Naomi and Titus 2 Covenant Alliance (NT2CA), a local organization that advocates for women to give back to the community. Like so many volunteers, their decision to give back to Suncoast Hospice was personal.

“Suncoast Hospice stepped in during a time when my family desperately needed them. Having that support really made our family come closer together,” says Flowers. “This is a great opportunity for me to give back.”

“Having gone through something similar, I can connect with these families,” explains Tarver. “That’s really what they need – to know someone else understands and cares.”

A friendly voice with a kind word is a small but meaningful way to show compassion to those who need it. Sometimes people just want someone to listen to their story. Other times talking about their feelings may help a person realize they need extra support. Tarver and Flowers are happy to lend that listening ear, offer encouragement, or provide information on grief counseling.

Throughout the process, volunteers are guided by coordinators who provide client names and contact information and guidelines on how to conduct the calls. Ensuring client privacy is a high priority. All calls are made from a private location of the volunteer’s choice, and information is transferred securely to the volunteer.

To become an Empath Health volunteer, individuals complete training and attend periodic support sessions to ensure they have the most up-to-date information. Volunteers can take on as many bereavement calls as fits in their schedule, allowing those like Flowers to volunteer while still working a full-time job.

“I really enjoy doing the calls,” adds Tarver. “I feel fulfilled knowing I’m helping someone in their time of need.”

Flowers adds, “Many of the people I talk to express how grateful they are for all Suncoast Hospice has done, and for me as a volunteer, that’s a rewarding feeling.”

Learn more about volunteer opportunities with Empath Health by visiting EmpathHealth.org/Volunteer or call volunteer services at (727) 523-3440.

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