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Volunteering a family affair for hospice supporters

Hinsdale – Hinsdale resident Mary Kay Pasin of Hinsdale has volunteered with Adventist St. Thomas Hospice’s bereavement department for eight years, but her connection with other hospice-related activities spans two decades.Her daughter and granddaughter recently began following in her footsteps, bringing three generations of their family together in service to the organization.

Pasin’s daughter, Downers Grove resident Therese Brandenstein, will serve as a volunteer counselor at Tommy’s Kids Summer Camp, a bereavement day camp. Her 14-year-old granddaughter, Emily Brandenstein, began volunteering with Adventist St. Thomas Hospice in December.

“Volunteering in any capacity takes a lot of passion and commitment,” said Heather Kochen, hospice youth coordinator. “To have three generations in one family dedicating their time with us is pretty remarkable.”

Before joining the Adventist St. Thomas Hospice team, Pasin worked and volunteered for CNS Home Health and Hospice in Carol Stream. At the hospice, Pasin calls patients’ families a month after their loved one’s death and also leads a support group for adults who have lost a parent.

“When I was young, I had some serious health problems and struggled with the reality of my own mortality,” Pasin said. “The hospice philosophy very much appealed to me and helped me embrace life and death as part of the human experience. The hospice philosophy is very inclusive and respectful of the person, regardless of an individual’s ethnicity, belief system or gender.”

After listening to her mother’s experiences, praying with a dying friend and hearing the need for volunteers at Tommy’s Kids Summer Camp, Brandenstein said she felt called to sign up as a volunteer counselor.

“I haven’t experienced a death loss, but I have had other losses in my life that have been painful,” she said. “I believe I have the compassion, empathy and wisdom to support these children and make camp a meaningful experience for them.”

Emily has visited nursing homes to make crafts with senior citizens, but she would like to expand her volunteer hours with hospice and is considering volunteering at the summer camp. Through the time she spent with hospice, Emily has gained a higher respect for people, especially the elderly.

 “Sometimes they are incapable of making the craft so you have to ask them how much help they would like because they still need to be in control,” Emily said. “I definitely have improved my communication skills.”

Adventist St. Thomas Hospice, 8230 S. Madison, Burr Ridge, is part of Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. Certified by Medicare and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, Adventist St. Thomas Hospice serves patients and families in DuPage, eastern Kane, northern Will and western Cook counties. To volunteer or for more information, call (630) 856-6990.