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Men, women, teens and even pets are called upon to be Niagara Hospice volunteers who “make a difference in the lives of Niagara County residents as they make their final journey,” according to Niagara Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Mandy Raff.

Nearly 100 volunteers are already helping out, Raff said. But more are needed every day, especially as Niagara Hospice in partnership with the Schoellkopf Health Center opens “David’s Path” a dedicated hospice unit on the second floor of the nursing home on the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center Campus.

A hospice volunteer training will be held at the site at 621 10th St., Niagara Falls, from 5 to 9 p.m. today and Wednesday. The training at Schoellkopf is open to all potential Niagara Hospice volunteers, regardless of where they want to work.

“We always need volunteers, said Raff. “Our patient census is growing every day so there is a lot more need.”

David’s Path is named for longtime hospital employee David Winker, who spent his final days surrounded by family at Niagara Hospice house in Lockport. David’s Path residents receive specialized hospice services from physicians, pharmacists, nurses, medical social workers and spiritual care providers, as well as massage therapists, allied therapists, support staff, volunteers and bereavement counselors.

John Lomeo, president and chief executive officer of Niagara Hospice, said in the announcement of David’s Path that the partnership between Niagara Hospice and Schoellkopf Health Center, “is a shared commitment to bring more comfort to residents and families on their end-of-life journey.”

Raff said volunteers participate by providing friendly visits. Sometimes they read and talk. They also bring pets or play music. They provide respite visits as well, which gives a caregiver time to leave the house for shopping or other needed chores. Raff said veteran volunteers who work with veteran patients have become popular because both share a special bond.

“A lot of volunteers say they get more out of the relationship than they think the patient does. It’s just rewarding to meet all these wonderful people and find out about their life history. Volunteers feel like they are adding to the quality of life of these patients,” Raff said.

Raff said the next volunteer training in Lockport will be held from 9 to 5 p.m. Nov. 16 at Niagara Hospice, 4675 Sunset Drive. Volunteers will also be honored at a gala in their honor on Nov. 1 to kick off National Hospice Month.

To register for training or find out about upcoming training and volunteer opportunities contact the Niagara Hospice Alliance at 280-0748 or email info@NHAlliance.com. More organization information can be found at www.NiagaraHospice.org.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com