Miriam Jenkins of North Little Rock was recently named the 2013 Arkansas Hospice Volunteer of the Year.
For the past three years, Jenkins has volunteered for the organization by visiting terminally ill patients in homes and nursing homes on a weekly basis.
In addition to the emotional support and care she gives patients and their caregivers, Jenkins also spends two days each week answering phones and greeting visitors at the Arkansas Hospice corporate office in North Little Rock. Her volunteer work in the past year added up to 436 hours.
Jan Walker, an Arkansas Hospice volunteer coordinator, nominated Jenkins for this year’s award.
"When I first met Miriam, I noticed that she always asked questions about the patients’ needs," Walker said in her nomination letter. "How could she help them? What could she do to make their last days on earth more enjoyable? I knew then that Miriam was going to be a great volunteer and someone Arkansas Hospice would be proud of."
When not volunteering, Jenkins stays busy spending time with her three sons and 11 grandchildren.
Jenkins said she was looking for something positive to do with her time after she retired.
"After I retired [she was an accountant], I decided that I need to get back into volunteer work again. Because we had used a hospice organization with my mother in Illinois, it was something that I was somewhat familiar with. So, I did a little research and decided that Arkansas Hospice was where I wanted to put some time and effort into because I felt like that would make a difference. I find it very satisfying and fulfilling being able to meet the needs of not only the patient, but also the family members."
Jenkins said she liked retired life but felt she needed to get more active.
"Right after I retired, I enjoyed not having to work every day. But something kept tugging at me that I needed to get involved in the community. That’s what led me to Arkansas Hospice. It’s a fabulous organization with fabulous people – inside and outside the office," she said.
Jenkins added, "When I was a little girl, I had 5 siblings. I remember our mother taking us to visit people in nursing homes. As I got older, she’d volunteer her services to fix meals for those who had someone who was ill. Those memories are so vivid for me. Throughout my entire life, I’ve felt that nudging to be involved with helping other people. That probably stems from all those trips to the nursing home when I was little."
Jenkins said it feels very special to assist people in need.
"One of my patients has Alzheimer’s Disease. When I first sat down beside her and took her hand, she almost immediately started crying. I just listened to her. I didn’t understand what she was saying, but I just listened. By the time I left 30 minutes later, she was in a way better place and wasn’t sad anymore. … It makes you feel good to know that you make a difference and make them feel better."
Jenkins said she has worked with other Alzheimer’s patients.
"I had a gentleman one time, again with Alzheimer’s, and I’d feed his lunch to him. I’d sit there, and I’d read. I guess the bottom line is filling the need – whether it’s the need of the patient or of the families."
Jenkins said she enjoys spending time with patients.
"Sometimes I read to them. I’ve sung with them. I’ve prayed with them. And sometimes you just sit silently and you’re there."
Arkansas Hospice is a community-based, not-for-profit organization serving the terminally ill throughout Arkansas. For more information on our services or on volunteering, please call 501-748-3333 or toll free 877-713-2348 or visit www.arkansashospice.org.