Hospice of the Carolina Foothills pioneers recognized for 30 years of service

Published 11:47 am Monday, May 16, 2011

Hospice CEO Jean Eckert celebrates Kathy Wells and Nan Holden and their 30 years of volunteer service. During the Volunteer Appreciation Tea on April 27, Eckert said, “These two remarkable women, along with Susie House who died this month, helped raise me as a Hospice nurse and CEO.” (photo submitted)

by Maureen Smith for HoCF

Kathy Wells and Nan Holden, both 30-year veterans of Hospice of the Carolina Foothills (HoCF), were recently recognized as the longest-serving volunteers in the organization’s history. The two long-time volunteers were given a standing ovation by staff and other volunteers in attendance at an April 24 Tea at Tryon Estates.

To hear Wells and Holden tell it, though, they are the ones who have benefited most from their three decades of service.

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“It’s been a wonderful time,” Wells said, smiling.

“That’s why we’re still here,” Holden added, echoing her sentiments.

After the tea, Wells and Holden both described their early years at HoCF.

“Now don’t forget Susie House,” Wells said, praising House as a one of the HoCF pioneers, who passed away recently at Hospice House of the Carolina Foothills. “She volunteered for 29 years.”

She also described how she, Holden and others had become involved with HoCF.

“There was a get together at our church one night, and a speaker named Peter Keyes came from Charlotte,” she said.

Well’s late husband Dave Wells had been interested in Hospice for many years, even before they moved to the area.

“So as soon as Dave found out about this speaker, we were going to go,” she said, chuckling. “The whole movement really started with Dave, Jack Allen and Tracey Lamar. They worked so hard for this Hospice,” she explained.

Wells said she was not sure at first that she wanted to be a volunteer, but as soon as she heard the speaker, she signed up for the volunteer class.

“Nan and I both took the class and shared the very first Hospice patient for a year and a half, a lovely Green Creek woman who was dying of bone cancer,” she explained.

Eventually, Wells and her husband were fortunate enough to travel to England where they met Hospice founder, Dr.Cicely Saunders. They also visited the large, bustling London Hospice, where young mothers with children volunteered with patients, while other volunteers babysat.

On the flight home, Dave Wells remarked, “We have a small Hospice, but a wonderful one. We will probably never get that big.”

Unfortunately he did not live long enough to see his prediction refuted. Dave was a HoCF patient within 11 years of the organization’s opening, passing away in l992.

Wells has continued to volunteer at the Thrift Barn and Hospice House, as well as working as a patient companion. She said she plans to keep on volunteering as long as she can.

“I guess it’s in my blood,” she said. “Some people have asked me how I can work with patients who are dying without getting depressed. I tell them I want to do the best I can for them and their families while the patients are still alive. I couldn’t have done anything better in my life.”

Holden said she’s never volunteered for anything without someone asking her to, but soon after she moved to the area, she felt she would like to be involved in Hospice work. Holden explains that she had been influenced years before by a professor friend who was involved in teaching classes on death and dying.

“There were just 25 of us who went to the original class in Tryon,” she said. “That’s where Kathy Wells and I were trained as patient companions.”

She added that many people did not understand Hospice back then. They saw it as a sign of dying.

“There were only one or two patients when Kathy and I shared our first patient in 1981,” she explained.

Holden has continued to volunteer as a patient companion since then and currently shares part-time in the care of a patient. Her most memorable moments, she explained, center on the “extra pleasant” memories she has of several patients she spent a great deal of time with.

Currently, she also works at the Hospice Thrift Barn in Landrum, sorting merchandise.

Holden said she is grateful beyond words after experiencing Hospice care when her late husband, Herbert Holden, became a HoCF patient last year.

“I cannot say enough about seeing Hospice care from the other perspective,” she explained.

Apparently she feels she cannot do enough for HoCF either.

“As long as they will keep me, I plan to continue to volunteer,” she said.

If you would like more information about the many volunteer opportunities available with Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, contact Kim Smith, volunteer manager, at 828-894-7000, 864-457-9122, or kimsmith@hocf.org.