Changing Lives

written by Amy Stewart, Director of Community Education

changing-livesHigh school is a pivotal era which marks the spawn of romance for many youngsters. Dwight and Mary Prevost are no exception. When Dwight, a robustly handsome senior, transferred to Moreauville High (near Marksville, LA) he met Mary, a friendly and attractive junior. The relationship had a shaky start it was “on again, off again” says Mary. In spite of that, the two remain connected as Dwight went away to college. Like many young men, Dwight, ensued a military career in the Air Force and eventually retired in 1987 at Barksdale Air Force Base. Dwight is a savvy, hardworking, character full of wit and charm. Technical skills and personality helped him land a job at Boeing in Lake Charles. The job forced him to temporarily live away from home. A subsequent job relocated the couple to Saudi Arabia for fve years. Then their daughter, Monique Cunningham, was able to lure them back with the frst grandchild.

In June, the duo celebrated a remarkable milestone — forty-three years of marriage! Indeed, they have endured some challenges through the years. They suffered, unimaginable heartache, the loss of a child. Their 15 year old son was killed in a tragic hunting accident. Later, the loss of a parent, Dwight’s elderly mother, he says “she stopped eating and drinking”.

Fortunately, his mother received hospice. The care and support from hospice was very meaningful. The nurturing of his mother’s physical needs were met, most especially the need for dignity and comfort. In addition, the family’s need for counsel, education and support were also provided. Dwight suggests that you couldn’t ask for anything more. Thus, when the pair happened upon a listing for hospice volunteers they were immediately interested. “It was something we could do together and it was needed” says Mary. They attended a training session which is required for all hospice volunteers at Hospice of Shreveport/Bossier. It provided valuable insight which helped them have confidence in their ability to help.

Dwight jokes that he wanted to volunteer “because the paycheck is big”. He couldn’t be more correct. Volunteers often gain a huge sense of satisfaction from their work. Mary adds “you get more than what you give; some patients are completely alone if not for the volunteers”. The pair has taken on several assignments visiting patients and providing relief for their weary caregivers. Dwight uses his sense of humor giving staff and patients a chuckle or two. His technical skills come in handy. He has done nearly anything needed for hospice, from putting offce furniture together to building shelves. The couple has been active in the volunteer program for four years and counting.

They recall a unique friendship formed with one patient as the most signifcant experience to date. The patient had no family. Dwight says “she was a hoot,
gifted, talented and we just loved her.” He and Mary visited this patient for at least a year. Dwight was there in the fnal moments for comfort just “talking and holding her hand”. It was fairly difficult when the patient passed away. Both agree, helping her “was absolutely worth it”. There have been less favorable assignments grovels Dwight like “installing an air conditioning window unit” in the midst of a hot, humid summer in a confned, cramped work space. Even this task was fulfilling. It provided added comfort for a man living the last days of life.

Indeed, there are many volunteer opportunities in our community. Why hospice? Few volunteer experiences offer the personal and meaningful experience that volunteering for hospice will. Nothing can replace the kindness of human interaction from one caring person to another in need. It’s a great activity for couples, friends, college students or anyone! The paycheck is definitely big. It’s something that provides immediate gratification for the volunteer and recipient. Hospice volunteers know frst hand how much their work matters. Once while visiting a patient with memory loss that rarely talked Mary says “I was surprised, she knew I hadn’t come on my regular day … they know when you miss”. Some people might be intimidated or fearful to work with seriously ill patients. For this reason, volunteer training is required for all hospice volunteers. It builds confidence and prepares volunteers for work in any area of hospice. Hospice gives hope to patients, caregivers and families. However, it’s an unfortunate reality that a person, right here in our community, is both lonely and dying. Its people, like Dwight and Mary, who simply do for others by providing friendship and compassion that have changed lives. That’s what hospice volunteers do — change lives.

Amy Stewart is the Director of Community Education at Hospice of Shreveport/Bossier and is a CCOA Board Member. She can be reached at
or 318-865-7177.

Contact Karen Smith, Volunteer Coordinator
Hospice of Shreveport/Bossier