A sight as simple as a bird hopping and pecking for food can lift the spirits of those going through their most difficult times, says Spartanburg Regional Hospice volunteer Mike Smith.
“It is simple,” he said. “But it’s more of a blessing than many of us realize.”
So as part of his volunteer efforts at the Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home, Smith pays special attention to the bird feeders outside each patient suite.
He and his wife, Sybil, decided to become hospice volunteers following the 2015 death of her father, who had been a Spartanburg Regional Hospice patient.
“We had been blessed by the hospice support. We received and we believed it was time to give back,” Sybil said.
On the Smiths’ first visit to the hospice home as volunteers, they were walking around the property and noticed that the hospice home could use new bird feeders. Mike approached hospice staff to see what could be done, and director Kim Ross suggested he visit the Wild Birds Unlimited store to see what was available. He reported back, and Ross gave the OK for the purchase of new bird feeders.
During his and Sybil’s Sunday visits to the hospice home, Mike makes sure all the feeders are full. He said the birds eat as much as 60 pounds of bird seed a week.
“I joke that I’m just waiting for them to eat so much they can’t fly,” he said.
Mike said he hears from families that they appreciate the sights and sounds of visiting birds.
“Some even push their loved one’s bed to the double-doors so they can enjoy it, too,” he said.
Though he’s become known at the hospice home as the keeper of the bird feeders, it’s not his only contribution. Mike and Sybil visit patient rooms and visit with families. They get snacks or soft drinks for visitors. Sometimes they serve as greeters in the lobby.
Mike, who is a retired pastor, said volunteering at the hospice home is a unique opportunity to minister to those in need. Every situation is different, and they encounter people in a wide variety of emotional states.
“Whatever is needed, we try to do,” he said.
And when it’s time for them to head back to their home in Lyman, the Smiths feel grateful for the experience.
“We always leave feeling blessed,” he said.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with Spartanburg Regional Hospice, contact Kelly Hall at 864- 560-5636. You can also donate to the Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s hospice fund.