Royce is a longtime volunteer of Midland. She has volunteered in multiple departments, most notably the Veterans’ Program, and is a prominent figure at the Center for Hope and Healing where she provides support for both the adult and children’s programs.
You’ve been a volunteer for quite some time. How did you become interested in volunteering at Midland?
I have lived most of my life in Topeka where I was born.About 15 years ago,I moved to Omaha, NE.After 8 years there I realized that “there’s no place like home” and returned to Kansas.Being retired by that time, I wanted to find a new purpose for my life and a way to give back to the community. A little later, I saw a TV commercial about Midland Care. At the time, all I knew about was the hospice house. Being a fourth generation nurse and no stranger to the last stages of life, I decided to fill out the volunteer application. During the volunteer training class,I learned of the many facets of Midland Care. So, I decided to try something different. I started with Youth Corps, which worked with middle school students. This program taught the youth about being a volunteer, citizenship skills, etc. They were also introduced to the volunteer program at Midland. The second year I worked with the Youth Corps, it became a requirement that the kids who participated would agree to volunteer several hours of their time to our volunteer programs. Youth Corps was only offered during the summer, so I investigated other initiatives at Midland, and the rest is history. I’ve been a part of many components of the organization over the years. I have visited with clients in their homes and in nursing homes, delivered a white rose to the funeral homefrom Midland Care in memory of a patient who passedwhile on our hospice service,assisted with the golf tournament for several years,sat at the bedside of patients in the hours leading up to their death when a family member could not be present (Sacred Vigil Watch), and assisted with new volunteer training programs and the Celebration of Life. Currently IsupportFamily Evenings (family grief program specifically intended for grieving children and their families), Grief Camp (for grieving children),co-facilitate adult grief groups, and maintain the Veterans’ Star Project.
How long have you been doing all of this?
I will begin my seventh year next month.
Share a little about the Veteran’s Program that you have worked with at Midland. Is this something you initiated or something that was already in existence when you started working with it?
The We Honor Veterans Program was already in place. When I became a volunteer, I suggested that perhaps a small, handmade, personalized gift, actually created by a Korean War veteran friend from Omaha, might be an enhancement to this program. Following approval, the Veteran’s Star Project was born, and it became “my baby” to hand make and disperse. Veterans in all of Midland’s service areaswho came on its hospice service received it to thank him/her for their service to our country and also to acknowledge the family’s sacrifice during that time. Unfortunately, after honoring over 1200 veterans and because of the impact of Covid-19, this project has been retired. However, I am extremely excited and proud to say that I have created a new honorarium that, following approval, will be implemented as soon as it’s safe and appropriate to do so.The impact of this small, simple gift on the veterans and families who receive it has been profound…that someone, in the last hours of their lives, is thanking them for their service!
You are also involved heavily in both the adult and children’s programming at the Grief Center. What is it about these programs that keeps you coming back?
It’s the people. Not only the staff, but the kids and the adults who participate in the programs. These are folks who are devastated about a loss and are seeking someone who will really listen to them and unconditionally accept them right where they are. I have learned so much about grief ‘s journey that we all make sooner or later, and the more I learn the more I want to learn. I have truly found a new direction for my life using the gifts God gave me. It helps me in my personal life as well. It gives me the tools I need to help others who are suffering a loss. I have been in that place, and I wish I had had someone who understood to help me with my own journey at the time. Hopefully, I can be that someone now when the time presents itself.
Volunteer work usually occurs in the context of our own life stories. Can you share a little bit about your own story and how that has led to your work with Midland’s programs?
It’s kind of interesting. The other things I have done have been great; I have met a lot of really nice people. But the Grief Center is where my heart is. I lost my first baby in my mid 20s, both parents, as well as other family members and friends since. Nothing prepares you for that. We have no basis for right or wrong. We are just in a river looking for a life raft. It gives me such pleasure and fulfillment to see kids and adults initially at their worst of times,when after a while the healing starts to happen. They begin to learn how to live again, restart their lives, and adjust to their “new normal”. They become the people they were meant to be after their loss and at this time in their life. It is like a rosebud with thorns; but they begin to open. The thorns are still there and still hurt but they begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel and hope for their future. It’s a transformation that’s amazing!
Volunteer work is transformative. How have you changed as a consequence of your work with Midland’s programs?
I have become a lot more patient and a much better listener. I can be empathetic with people because I have walked that road myself, not in the same way, but in the same context. Grief and loss are no respecter of persons. I learn so much as I co-facilitate groups and work with families. In my own personal life, it has given me a much broader perspective and yet a delicate understanding of myself and others. As a caregiver, it is one more tool I have in my toolbox and a new direction for my life.
You tend to close groups that you co-facilitate with some kind of encouraging or inspirational reading. What words of encouragement would like to share with our readers today?
The only way I can sum it up is that as humans, we want to feel like we have value. Each of us has been given special gifts that we can share with others. It can be as simple as a smile or a nod we share with a stranger on the street. The old saying that “you get what you give” is true. But life has taught me that as you give of yourself to others,blessings come back to you tenfold.
Any other thoughts?
If you are looking a new adventure of fulfillment for yourself and a means to give back to the community, I really encourage you to check out the Volunteer Department at Midland Care.
If you are interested in learning more about the volunteer opportunities at Midland, call Sherry Combs at (785) 232-2044.