Annabelle and Barbara are two of many who give their time and talents as Family Hospice volunteers.
Annabelle and Barbara are two of many who give their time and talents as Family Hospice volunteers.

By Franco Insana

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. ~Winston Churchill

It was one of those many cold mornings we had in March. By all accounts, it was a typical day at The Center for Compassionate Care/Canterbury, Family Hospice and Palliative Care’s inpatient center in Lawrenceville, on the campus of UPMC’s Canterbury Place.

Despite the chill in the air, though, a certain warmth filled our inpatient unit. It came in the form of a woman bearing a broad smile who had much to give.

Celeste is a retired RN. Despite the fact that she needs the support of a walker to get around, she visits patients at The Center for Compassionate Care/Canterbury a couple of days every week, spending four hours at a time. A Family Hospice volunteer since the summer of 2012, Celeste brings music to play for some patients – and is known as a wonderful presence, providing companionship for patients and realizing their needs even when no words are spoken.

Celeste is one of more than 500 dedicated volunteers that share their time, talents and energy with Family Hospice. And whether these volunteers provide clerical support, patient companionship or staffing at one of our special events, what they give makes a difference in lives each and every day.

Who doesn’t like pie?  In Hermitage, a volunteer named Virginia is known to visit our Family Hospice office in Mercer County, delivering homemade pies to our staff – a gesture of appreciation for the care we provided to her husband. But beyond that, Virginia’s most unique contribution as a volunteer has brought a whole new dimension to Camp Healing Hearts, Family Hospice’s annual camp for grieving children and their caregivers.  Over the years, Virginia has fashioned by hand a small “village” of puppets, some life-size, and has used them to entertain at events throughout her community.  This past year, Virginia created puppets “Hope” and “Sunny” specifically for Camp.

The simple message and story was met with delight by the children, who were then invited to take the stage and manipulate the puppets themselves.

At our Center for Compassionate Care in Mt. Lebanon, Annabelle, Wilma, Ann, Marlin, Jane, Barbara, Francine and Mary are among the volunteers who make it possible for our lunchtime café to serve families and staff alike. These folks greet the lunchtime crowd with a smile and friendly conversation as they run our check-out register and can usually provide a first-hand review on the special of the day.

Family Hospice works closely with many area long-term care facilities. Through our Candlelight Companion program, it is our goal that no patient dies alone. Tracy is a volunteer who ensures that our patients have companionship by sitting vigil with them. Although she works full-time, Tracy makes time for weekly visits, seeing two or three patients during her stops at local nursing facilities, sometimes staying until 11 p.m. or later.

Then there’s Kim, a volunteer who helps our North Side office and is famous for never saying no. She provides patient companionship so caregivers may get rest, she volunteers as a Candlelight Companion, and spends time helping in our office.

And finally, Mary, a volunteer who literally travels far and wide. Mary visits patients for Family Hospice wherever asked: from White Oak to the North Hills, to Oakmont.

These are just some examples of those we are blessed to call our volunteers. There are so many more and each one plays a vital role. Each one makes a difference by what they give.

Please join me in thanking the volunteers that make a difference in your corner of the world.

Franco Insana is the Interim CEO and full-time Chief Financial Officer of Family Hospice and Palliative Care. He has more than 25 years experience in business and accounting, particularly in the health care and non-profit environments. He may be reached at or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care serves nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at and

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