Gary Shapiro has been a Chaplain for the Hospice program at Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire (VNH) for four years and has recently stepped into the role of Interim Hospice Volunteer Coordinator.
VNH sat down with Shapiro to discuss his new role as Volunteer Coordinator and how it is a natural extension from his current role.

Tell us a little bit about your role as Volunteer Coordinator

My aim is to renew and reinvigorate the volunteer program. Currently, I am looking at the volunteer program and seeing what programs and services we need for our patients and caregivers and what is most appropriate with the ongoing pandemic. Once I establish this I will be reconnecting with our current volunteers and recruiting new volunteers, to work with our patients and their families in a variety of ways. I also do the orientation, train new volunteers, and then oversee what the volunteers are doing and support them in their work.

How is this a natural extension of the work you do as a chaplain?

It gives me a certain awareness and sensitivity to what patients and their families and caregivers need beyond what the nurses do. My role as a chaplain is to provide that emotional, spiritual support and companionship for people and their families as they go through the hospice journey, and a volunteer can provide extra emotional support and companionship. These volunteers play a big part in that hospice team care.

As we know there is a pandemic that is going on, how will VNH make sure the volunteer is safe going into a patients’ home?

A volunteer can expect to receive the appropriate personal protective equipment and learn the procedures to safely visit a patient in their home. If they don’t feel comfortable visiting someone in the home, other types of volunteer work can be done.

What other types of volunteer roles are there besides going into a patient’s home to provide companionship or relieve a caregiver?

A volunteer could make a phone call to a patient or caregiver to check in on them and lend an ear. They could run errands for the patient or family, provide bereavement support for families, or assist VNH with administrative tasks. We also can connect a veteran to a veteran to provide veterans support. These are some of the many ways that one can volunteer in hospice.

Why is volunteering important?

It’s a rewarding opportunity to serve someone that is in need and to be of service to the community that you live in. It can be a way to give back at a time when a lot of us feel overwhelmed. It provides companionship and the emotional support that the patient or family gets from someone being there. It helps the patient and family feel that they are not alone during this time.

What would you say to someone who is looking to volunteer?

No matter what your skill or experience is with volunteering or taking care of patients there is a place for you. VNH supports you in every step of the volunteer journey with training and problems that arise.
If you are interested in learning more about volunteering please contact Gary at