Roberta Goodwin volunteered 541 hours for Regional Hospice in 2016, earning her a Gold Medal from the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. You can find Roberta greeting at the front desk at the Center for Comfort Care & Healing and facilitating bereavement groups for the Healing Hearts Center for Grief and Loss. She thinks that “Regional Hospice is the best place around to volunteer.”
Since 2001, Roberta Goodwin has been a devoted Regional Hospice and Palliative Care volunteer. After experiencing a life-altering car accident, the tenacious real estate agent realized that she needed to make some time in her life to volunteer again – something that she’s always valued. An avid bowler, at her first game post-recovery, she wondered out loud whether anyone knew any good charities to volunteer for. As luck would have it, the team she was bowling against was comprised of Regional Hospice employees and the rest is history!
Roberta began volunteering at Regional Hospice in the role of Family Support Volunteer. For two years, she visited with patients in their homes to provide companionship, support and respite for their family members. In 2003, the Healing Hearts Center for Grief and Loss was expanding their programs and Roberta, a mother of four and grandmother of (now) 11 – with 1 great-grandchild and another one on the way – was eager to get trained to facilitate support groups for children who have experienced loss. Working with “Littles” (children aged 4-8) and eventually “Middles” (children aged 9-12) was a perfect fit – she enjoyed working with kids on arts and crafts projects and guiding them on their grief journeys.
In 2011, after nearly 8 years of working with children in Healing Hearts, Program Manager Joanna DeNicola, LCSW, saw potential in her and suggested that Roberta facilitate adult bereavement groups. Roberta agreed, feeling up for the challenge, and she’s been facilitating adult groups ever since. She credits Joanna to her success in the program, stating that she is “absolutely incredible with her teaching.”
When Regional Hospice opened the Center for Comfort Care & Healing in February 2015, Roberta decided to expand her volunteer work again and took on another role as a Lobby Greeter. She loves this role and looks at this as another important way to connect and interact with families. She wants patients and visitors alike to feel welcomed and at ease, greeting them by name whenever possible. When she is greeting at the desk she gets to know the other volunteer on shift with her in addition to the visitors coming in and she feels fortunate that she is able to hear their interesting life stories.
With all of these volunteer roles, it’s no wonder that Roberta volunteered over 500 hours last year, achieving the gold level of the US President’s Volunteer Service award. When asked what keeps her coming back after all of this time, she answered without hesitation: the people you’re helping and the people you’re surrounded by. She speaks of the Regional Hospice team as a group of “givers” – not “takers” –which has created a wonderful balance in her life, juxtaposing her career in the business world.
Roberta gets asked a lot by friends and family how she is able to volunteer at Regional Hospice and she tells them unequivocally that volunteering is a complete ‘upper’ for her because she is helping families at some of the saddest times in their lives. She asserts that it is not negative or depressing – and that it gives her the opportunity to get to know people from all walks of life.
Roberta has had many memorable moments over the past 16 years of volunteering. She takes particular pride in watching some of her Healing Hearts group participants experience what she refers to as a “breakthrough.” She describes this as a day when, after months of someone attending a support group, a participant is finally able to share his/her real fears and emotions with the group. She feels that when that happens, the team has done their job. “We were able to give them enough support to feel comfortable coming back and speak up.” Always one to downplay her own contributions, she credits those moments largely to the comfortable environment at the Center for Comfort Care & Healing and the delicious cookies, coffee and tea that help set the stage for this support and change.
Roberta’s dedication to volunteering has set a shining example for others. Within the last year, her son Edward and her grandson Zachary followed her lead and signed up to become Regional Hospice volunteers themselves – something she refuses to take any credit for. This three-generational volunteer team often signs up for shifts together and it’s clear that the compassion that Roberta has for others and commitment she has to “giving back” has also been instilled in her family.
When asked about her family, she reflects for a moment, “My family? We’re all very close. It’s all about family, as far as I’m concerned. And [as members of the Regional Hospice team] we’re here helping families – that’s what Regional Hospice does.”