Make a difference: Hospice volunteers needed in Wadena

“The hospice label has some negative connotations, the feeling of death and dying, but I actually find it to be uplifting," said hospice volunteer Richard Lorenz.

Keshia Kettler and her son, Lincoln. Kettler is the volunteer coordinator for ProMedica Hospice, which is looking for volunteers in the Wadena area.
Contributed photo

WADENA — It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but hospice is looking for volunteers in Wadena — and that kind of service can be very valuable for those under hospice care, and quite rewarding for the volunteers, said Keshia Kettler, volunteer coordinator for ProMedica Hospice.

“ProMedica Hospice is looking for caring and dedicated people with an interest in serving terminally ill patients and their families in Wadena,” Kettler said.

“We used to be Heartland Hospice, we had a name change recently,” she added. “We’re based out of Baxter and serve a 60-mile radius — we go out to wherever patients call home. We’ve been looking for volunteers in Wadena for a long, long time.”

Volunteers provide services such as friendly visiting, pet visits, musical enrichment, art enrichment and military veteran-to-veteran visits.

A friendly visit is just to give some companionship during a difficult time in someone’s life, she said. “They just sit down with a patient that would like some extra contact — they just sit down with that patient and talk about everyday things, or play cards, that kind of thing,” she said.


There are different kinds of volunteers, she added. “A friendly visitor is for companionship, pet visits are from people with therapy dogs, and others play music for patients, or do art.”

Some volunteers provide company during the dying process. “In the last hours and days of life, a patient might not have family members to sit with them,” she said. “Vigil visiting is another type of visiting,” she said.

Richard Lorenz, 70, of St. Cloud is a hospice volunteer who plays guitar and sings for patients about twice a month.

“If you're thinking about volunteering, go ahead and do it,” he said. “The hospice label has some negative connotations, the feeling of death and dying, but I actually find it to be uplifting. It’s a natural part of the life cycle. What’s a better way to reach people than to volunteer and spend time with them?”

He visits patients wherever they live — in nursing homes, senior living centers and private homes. And while he shows up to play for the patient, there’s something about live music that seems to draw a crowd.

“I go there for one person, but I sing in the community area, and everybody listens,” he said. “In other places I’ve sung in rooms and people will gather in the hallway to listen.”

He likes to play feel-good music from the 1950s and 1940s — “stuff I’ve always played,” he said. “Stuff my mother liked to listen to.”

He grew up near Grand Rapids, Minn. “My mother until the day she died said she couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket, but she’d drive me 20 miles into town so I could take guitar lessons when I was in second or third grade,” he said. He spent some time in the Navy before moving back north, where he worked as a special education teacher in Greenway until he retired in 2015.


He grew up singing in church and school choirs, but was never comfortable singing and playing guitar until shortly before his retirement, when his brother “conned” him into playing some live music in a bar at Warba, Minn, population 181.

“It was so much fun, I just kept doing it,” he said. He and his wife, Deb, traveled the country in an RV for two years after he retired, then moved to St. Cloud. He then took to playing music regularly, solo and with other musicians — often in nursing homes and retirement facilities.

He finds making the effort is always worthwhile. “There will be people in wheelchairs tapping their toes to the music … One time there was a guy who hadn’t spoken for months, and I looked up and he was singing ‘You are my Sunshine’ with us — it was really cool,” Lorenz said.

“Music calms, music relaxes, it brings back a flood of memories for some people,” he added. “I find it very, very rewarding. It’s fun.”

When volunteers can’t be found, Kettler and other hospice staff members do what they can to fill the void. “They still get their needs met, but having a volunteer would be very cool,” she said.

Kettler has been volunteer coordinator for the past seven years. “I’d be more than happy to find one volunteer in Wadena,” she said. It doesn’t have to be too time-consuming, she said. “Maybe an hour a week — it could be less or more,” she said. And of course it doesn’t have to be music, any kind of volunteer would be very welcome, including friendly visiting, she said.

Volunteer schedules are flexible, and volunteer classes are available to fit each volunteer’s needs. Call Kettler at Promedica Hospice at 218-829-1252 to learn more.

“It’s a great service, spending time with someone at the end of life,” she said.

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