Volunteers Mara Natkins (left) and Lisa Felix, both of Mt. Airy, pose for a photo outside of Keystone Hospice, 8765 Stenton Ave. (Photo by Laurie Roma.)

by Sue Ann Rybak

“Our volunteers are the heart of Keystone,” said Christine DeVore, director of volunteers at Keystone Care in Wyndmoor.

Devore said volunteers offer friendship and support to clients and their families during the most challenging times in their lives.

“They walk hand and hand with the person coping with terminal illness, and while doing so they experience a profound change in their lives,” DeVore said. “It’s such a selfless role being a hospice volunteer.”

Mara Natkins, of Mt. Airy, has been volunteering at Keystone House, 8765 Stenton Ave., for about two years.

“One of the things I’ve learned here is the importance of listening,” said Natkins, who became a hospice volunteer after some friends and family used hospice. “There is a value to talking, but there is a really deep value to listening.”

Natkins said she believes that people are never at a point in their life where they can’t start a new relationship. She added that she has learned that silence is okay.

“Sometimes, just sitting with someone in companionable silence can be very comforting and very nurturing.

Lisa Feix, of Mt. Airy, said since she retired from the federal government she has done a variety of volunteering, including working as a child advocate with Court Appointed Special Advocate Association.

“I think you end up receiving more than you give,” Feix said. “It takes just a little bit of my time.”

She recalled one woman, Mary, who had no family. Feix said although she only got to visit with her three or four times, she learned a special lesson from her. Mary was a big hockey fan who loved the Los Angeles Kings.

“One of the things she asked me was if I knew how the Stanley Cup Playoffs were going,” Feix said.

“I am a huge sports fan, but hockey is not one of my sports. So, I said ‘I will find out.’”

Feix said she went downstairs and she and an employee found out they were up three games to two.

When she returned a few days later, Mary was not awake and had declined dramatically.

“I was little taken back, even after having volunteered at hospice before, how quickly people can decline,” Feix said. “I was so excited to tell her the L.A. Kings had won the Stanley Cup 6-1. But when I arrived, I was concerned because I didn’t want to wake her.”

Feix said she mentioned to one of the employees, Joe, that the L.A. Kings had won, and he said “Of course, we need to tell her.”

He told her that Mary probably wouldn’t make it through the night.

“So, he knelt down real close to her and said, ‘Mary, I just wanted to tell you that Lisa came to tell you the L.A. Kings won the Stanley Cup,’” Feix said. Then he added, “So, if you’ve been waiting on that news, you’ve got it.”

Feix said she went to her funeral service because the woman had no family. Feix, the priest and the funeral director were the only people there. The funeral director said she wanted a very simple funeral.

“It was the only service [of a hospice patient] I’ve ever been to,” Feix said. “When I talked to her before she died, my heart ached for because she had no family. She was very matter-of-fact about it. And I certainly didn’t dwell on it with her. I just internalized it.”

Feix said Mary was a lovely lady, who desired very little.

“Most of us have an abundance of things,” Feix said. “I think she was at a place [in her life] where she realized she didn’t need very much – except for a little bit of my time and friendship.”