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Volunteer Stories


Matthew Cali

Meet Matthew Cali, a 22-year-old HOET Volunteer and recent graduate of UT Tyler! Matthew began volunteering in May of 2019 as a direct volunteer, taking time to visit and talk with hospice patients. With plans to start Med School in August, Matthew says the initial draw to volunteering at HOET was the opportunity for patient interaction and learning how to empathize with patients.

Matthew believes his experience volunteering has taught him the value of time, and especially time spent with those patients who don’t have much time left. “I’ve learned the sacredness of relationships,” he said. “In no other field are you working so closely with death, while also welcoming it with a sort of positivity. Of course, it is sad; but we comfort people as they go through that process.”

Though Matthew is not sure yet what area of medicine he will practice, he hopes to very hands-on and focus on interacting with patients as much as possible. When asked what his advice would be for other young people who may be interested in volunteering, he said, “There’s so much about hospice you don’t know. As a young person, it’s really rewarding to be able to connect with people in their later years. This experience has given more importance to my daily life and makes me value my days. You can gain a lot of wisdom and joy from connecting with those at the end of their life.

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Pat Harelson

Pat Harelson has been a volunteer for over nine years and has served in several positions for The Hospice of East Texas (HOET). Pat has provided administrative assistance for her volunteer coordinator by mailing letters, filing documents, and conducting phone calls to HOET families and volunteers. In addition, she has aided with community outreach committees and outreach projects, such as volunteering at the “Turn Tyler Pink” event and the “Airing of the Quilts”. In addition, Pat has visited over 30 patients in homes and facilities throughout the Tyler area as a home care direct volunteer. She provides empathetic care and listening to her families and patients. One caregiver explained to the volunteer coordinator that “Pat is not a volunteer, Pat is family!” Pat continued to support this family after the death of the sweet patient by attending the funeral and being invited to sit with the family during the service. Pat is committed as a volunteer by taking part in the Memory Care Connector (MCC) training provided to HOET volunteers. As a MCC volunteer, Pat has extended compassion, love and care, in very difficult situations with her Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. 

Pat chose to become a HOET volunteer due the compassion she witnessed when The Hospice of East Texas cared for a friend. It was compassion she had not seen in a long time and she wanted to provide that same compassion to others. Pat worked in the HR field for many years and nothing in her professional work compares to the care she has provided as a volunteer for HOET. One patient Pat visited enjoyed hamburgers, so she would bring them both hamburgers and the sweet lady would pray over their meal. During Pat’s last visit with this lady, she sensed a change during the prayer, and she knew it would be their last time together. Because of her hospice experiences, Pat is very sensitive when death is nearing, and she has developed a sense of peace towards the dying process. The last patient Pat visited became a mentor to Pat and taught her strength, joy, and how to be a prayer warrior. Pat learned to live and live well from the dear lady. Pat explained, “Death is not the end of our journey; it is another chapter of our journey.”

One constant Pat has witnessed from her visits with patients is their reliance on Jesus and many have enjoyed her reading the Bible during the visits. She stated, “I don’t think I would have gained the sensitivity and compassion I have learned as a hospice volunteer from any other experience.” In addition, she said you always have the support and encouragement from The Hospice of East Texas staff when you visit your patients. According to Pat, the most important skills one must have to be a HOET volunteer is to smile and listen. Her previous volunteer coordinator conducted a mentoring visit with Pat and her patient. The volunteer coordinator said, I do not know why I am here, because I am learning from you! You know what to do!

We at The Hospice of East Texas are grateful to Pat Harelson for her 9 years of volunteer excellence!

Click here to Apply to be a Volunteer 

David Johnson

Meet David Johnson, a 91-year-old volunteer who hails from Ohio where he attended Ohio State and played the trumpet in the all men Ohio State Buckeyes Marching Band. He moved to Texas in 1979 and has his own insurance company.  David has served 8 years at HOET welcoming families, guests, and staff at our HomePlace front desk.  He is a people person and has never met a stranger.  He has a unique way of making conversation with people and helping them feel comfortable as he shows them to a room.  David also purchased numerous bird feeders to place around our campus and keeps them filled with birdseed so that our patients can enjoy watching birds just outside their window. 

David had a personal experience with HOET in 2012 when his precious wife, Linda, came on our service and we took care of her in their home. She came to HomePlace later where she passed away.  After a year or so David decided he would like to serve as a volunteer at the Hospice of East Texas and give back.  One thing he especially enjoys is the relationship he has created with our staff.  “Mr. David” knows most of the staff by name and they look forward to Wednesday afternoons when he serves to visit and see what crazy socks he is wearing for the day.  He brings joy each time he serves, and we appreciate his dedication to encourage others.

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Charlotte Levy

Meet Charlotte Levy! Charlotte has been volunteering in our Nacogdoches thrift store since 2014. Most days Charlotte can be spotted at her post working the register and greeting customers. She brings her warm personality and humor to the job.

Approaching a holiday you can bet she will be dressed accordingly, topped with a fun headpiece or hat. Of her work at the shop Charlotte states…“Had heard of HOET and had been volunteering at the hospital, felt like it was a real job. Decided to try something new. Loves getting to meet the customers. Good way to get out of the house, give back to the community, enjoyable. Fun volunteer job!”

Click here to Apply to be a Volunteer