Shannon Paley

Volunteer family spans three generations

October 2018

It’s common for Mission Hospice volunteers to love their work so much that they spread the word. Many of our volunteers became involved because of someone they knew. Direct Care Volunteer Shannon Paley may be the only one to recruit two generations of family members to our volunteer corps.

A Burlingame native, when Shannon took leave from her job in biotech to be home with her toddler, she was looking for something meaningful to do with her extra time. She was drawn to Mission Hospice because her family had seen the benefits of hospice first-hand when her paternal grandmother became ill with cancer.

Shannon started volunteer training when she was six months pregnant with her second child. “I thought I’d wait until the baby was born to start volunteering,” she says, but Volunteer Services Director Craig Schroeder told her that having a pregnant woman visit would bring people joy and hope.

“He was exactly right,” says Shannon. “The minute I walked in the door, patients smiled and wanted to talk about my baby. Our being there led them to open up and tell me about their experiences being pregnant and having children. I think it brought back fond memories.”

And after Genevieve was born in January 2018, Shannon brought the baby with her on patient visits. “I didn’t realize what an impact bringing an infant would have on the patients. Luckily, she’s cut out for this kind of work – she’s very social, and loves visiting people.”

Shannon also brings her three-year-old daughter Simone, who enjoys sharing nursery rhymes and songs with patients.

Their patients love having the young visitors. One patient held three-week-old Genevieve for hours. One of their patients calls the baby her “ninth grandchild.” And when the family visits their patient who lives in a nursing facility, they visit with all of the residents. “They greet us like celebrities – everyone comes out to say hello.”

“Volunteering gives me connections and interactions that I was missing while taking a break from work,” says Shannon. “One of the things that made this a great fit for me is that it’s a really flexible time commitment. And I get to help people at a critical time of their lives.”

When Shannon shared her volunteer experience with her family, it resonated with her dad, Dan Ochse. Semi-retired, he had also been looking for something to do with his extra time.

“When Shannon started volunteering, I admired her doing it – and I knew immediately that this was something I could do,” says Dan. “I called Craig and enrolled in the very next training.”

“They teach us that we get more back than we give, and that’s been so true,” he says. Both Dan and Shannon say that sharing the volunteer experience has not only brought them even closer, but has benefited their family. “Doing this gives you a different perspective on life,” says Shannon. “We’re better equipped to deal with loss and grief.”

“Volunteering definitely prepares you to be more understanding of the process of death,” agrees Dan. “That can only be helpful to our family at some point.”

Shannon says, “I’m so grateful to Mission Hospice for the opportunity to do this – I’ve already gotten so much out of it.”

“It’s almost as if this was meant to happen,” says Dan. “It’s beautiful. I’m really proud to be a part of an organization like this.”