Mary Landaberde and Dalton Rose could be anywhere on a Sunday morning but the two high school students choose to spend their weekends at the Mike Conley Hospice House in Clermont, a Cornerstone Hospice facility.
The choice to volunteer at a home for end of life care may surprise some but Landaberde and Rose say they find joy in a place many might choose to avoid.
“People are like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be sad,’” Rose said when asked what his friends thought of his choice. “But the people who are here want to make it happy.”
Landaberde adds, “When I came here I was expecting it to be glum,” she continues. “I was honestly really surprised at how positive and uplifting the entire atmosphere was.”
What started as a way to earn community service hours has turned into a long term commitment.
The two maintain the small cafe that families use when visiting the home. They clean, refill coffee and snacks and prepare breakfast for the patients.
Landaberde and Rose were already certified in restaurant safety through the culinary program at school.
Volunteer specialist, Sandy Acht said it was a natural fit. “I love all my volunteers but Mary and Dalton stand out because of their maturity,” Acht said. " I don’t recall being that mature when I was that young," she laughs.
Landaberde and Rose say they enjoy talking to the patients and hearing their stories. Landaberde says she was inspired by a hospice volunteer years ago who helped her deal with a loss of her own.
“When I was younger I had a family member who was in the hospice system and it was a volunteer who came along and helped me feel a lot better about everything that was going on. When I heard we had a hospice house in the area I wanted to pay it forward.”
The students were nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award by Cornerstone Foundation Board member, Nanci Schwartz.
“I was blown away by these students, they were just so poised and genuinely seemed to enjoy working here,” Schwartz said.
Acht says Cornerstone relies on all it’s volunteers to keep the facility operating.
“They’re really an intricate part of what we do here,” Acht said. “If there’s not a volunteer helping in the kitchen then staff has to do it and that’s taking them away from their medical job which is very important.”
The volunteer opportunity is also in line with the student’s career choices. Landaberde has plans to become a nurse practitioner and Rose a nutritionist.
“They’re definitely getting results,” Acht said. “They’re going to be amazing people and they’re going to really make a difference.”
The Mike Conley Hospice House has put the volunteer program on hold during the COVID-19 crisis. Both Mary and Dalton say they look forward to returning soon.
Those interested in volunteering opportunities are asked to contact Sandy Acht at: email@example.com