A Heart for Volunteering

Written by Rick Fennell.

National Home Care and Hospice Month

November is National Home Care and Hospice Month. It is a time to honor those who have chosen to make a difference in the lives of the patients and families they serve. Three ladies all have one thing in common.  They all have a heart for volunteering.  They were blessed to be served in a time of need, and they all feel compelled to serve likewise. 

Myrle Cariker:

A native of Gladewater and a longtime resident of Carthage, Myrle Cariker taught in Texas public schools for 37 years; 25 as a classroom teacher and 12 years as a principal.  She taught in the Port Neches, Gladewater, Carthage and Pine Tree Independent School Districts.  Myrle was passionate about educating young people and preparing them for the challenges of life.  Ironically, in 2009, Myrle found herself in a predicament where she was unprepared.  Myrle’s husband, Doug, was terminally ill and required care Myrle was unqualified and unprepared to give.  In short, she was overwhelmed.  Although retired from full time education, Myrle was still working part-time, supervising student teachers for UT Tyler. Juggling work and full time caregiving responsibilities became increasingly stressful.  Myrle and Doug were active members of First Christian Church in Carthage.  Myrle knew Stacy Speaks, a nurse with Heart’sWay Hospice, from Church.  Stacy told Myrle of the benefits of hospice care.  “God sent angels”, Myrle said as she recounted the help she received from hospice nurses and aides.  “I cannot imagine how we would have made it without Heart’sWay.” 

Doug passed away in October of 2009.  Myrle wanted to help others who were going through circumstances similar to what she and Doug had been through.  She began volunteering for Heart’sWay in 2010.  As a hospice volunteer Myrle has visited patients and their families, assisted with activities at area nursing homes (such as BINGO, fall fest[s], & sing-a-longs), sent out bereavement cards to families who have experienced recent loss, and worked in the Carthage Heart’sWay office. Myrle said her favorite volunteer activity with Heart’sWay is participating in Family Night at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  

In addition to volunteering at Heart’sWay Hospice, Myrle has volunteered at the Tea Room (when it was active) and at First Christian Church.  Always the educator, Myrle finds volunteering allows her to continue her lifelong passion of preparing people for life’s challenges. 

Nell Bauer:

If you’ve lived in Carthage for any length of time you know Bauer Furniture.  It has been a fixture on Panola St in Carthage for many years.  Max and Nell Bauer were married for 54 years, and they called Carthage home for most of that time.  Originally from Shongaloo, Louisiana, Nell says Carthage is the largest town she’s ever lived in.  She and Max moved to Carthage from Vivian, Louisiana, to open Bauer Furniture many years ago; and after all these years, Nell considers Carthage home.  Nell was a stay at home Mom, but says there were many days Max would call her to come help at the store. 

When Max got sick in late 2009, Nell thought she would be able to take care of him at home; and she did for quite some time.  However, when his sickness progressed and his needs became greater, this stay at home Mom who had been in charge of her household for well over 50 years found herself unequipped to handle everything Max required.  Heart’sWay Hospice Executive Director Polly Maines, from Carthage, was working as a Social Worker at the time (for Heart’sWay) and spoke at First Methodist Church about the benefits of hospice care for families with terminally ill loved ones.  Nell contacted Heart’sWay soon after and began to receive hospice care for Max.  Nell recalled, “The same nurse came regularly to the house for Max. The fact we had a regular nurse and not a group of people that rotated in and out gave us stability.  Our family got to know her; she was my support.  She cared as much for my well-being as she did my husband’s.  She even rode to the hospital with me at the end.”

Max passed away in 2010 after being on hospice services for 5 months.  In 2011, Nell began volunteering with Heart’sWay.  “I knew I didn’t want to just sit at home and stare at the walls, and I wanted to give back to others who had loved ones going through what my family went through with Max,” Nell stated.  Nell sees patients on hospice service, helps with office work, sends out bereavement cards, provides caregiver relief, and participates in activities at area nursing homes.  Nell said, “I’ve probably enjoyed giving relief to caregivers more than anything else I’ve done as a volunteer.  I know what it’s like to be at home with a terminally ill loved one day after day.  When I can go and sit with a patient and allow that caregiver to get out of the house for a bit to run errands or to simply get away for a brief time…that gives me a lot of fulfillment.” 

Like Bauer furniture, Nell has been around for quite some time; and like the furniture store on Panola, Nell plans to continue serving the community she calls home for as long as she’s able.

LaVerle Spurgeon:

If you visit someone at Carthage Health Care there’s a good chance you’ll hear the cheerful sound of the piano emanating from the dining room; and there’s an even better chance the lady producing that joyful sound will be LaVerle Spurgeon.  LaVerle began volunteering at Carthage Health Care over 35 years ago when a neighbor moved there.  Originally from Pearland, Texas, LaVerle moved to Carthage in 1968 when her husband was transferred to East Texas for work.  LaVerle was a stay at home Mom who immediately became active in the Carthage area.  In 2008, LaVerle’s mother, Nina Hill, became terminally ill and was put on hospice with Heart’sWay Hospice of Northeast Texas.  LaVerle said the nurses became part of the family.  “They all called mother ‘Granny’”, LaVerle recalled.  “We all became very close.”  LaVerle’s father passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly while Nina was on hospice.  It was a terrible jolt to the whole family.  “Our nurses were so wonderful when Daddy passed away.  We knew Mother was dying, but losing Daddy was such a shock.  I don’t know what we would have done without our Heart’sWay nurses and aides.”  Nina passed away in 2010; but that was just the beginning of LaVerle’s journey with Heart’sWay.

LaVerle was already actively serving as a Sunday school teacher at Antioch Baptist Church and was familiar with residents and staff at Carthage Health Care.  She began volunteering with Heart’sWay Hospice toward the end of 2010.  As a part of her volunteer duties, LaVerle sees patients at area facilities, helps in the office as needed, and leads sing-a-longs at local nursing homes.  LaVerle said her favorite volunteer activity is leading the twice monthly sing-a-longs at Carthage Health Care.  “It’s very rewarding to hear the residents singing and to see their smiles.  They always enjoy when we come.” 

In addition to her volunteer duties with Heart’sWay, LaVerle still teaches the 2-5 year olds at Antioch Baptist Church, where she is also active in WMA. 

Next time you’re in a local nursing home or assisted living facility and you hear a piano being played, go see if it’s LaVerle.  There’s a good chance it will be her, and she’ll expect you to join and sing along.

- Rex Fennell is the Volunteer Coordinator at Heart’sWay Hospice of Northeast Texas.  To learn more about volunteer opportunities in the Carthage area contact Heart’sWay Hospice at (903)690-9924.