VITAS Innovative Hospice Care®

Hello, my name is Renee Berry and I am the Volunteer Services Manager for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® of the San Francisco Bay Area. The organization I work with helps patients during the last months of life, providing physical, emotional and spiritual support to patients with a wide range of life-limiting illnesses. We serve patients all over the Bay Area and volunteers are the heart of our program. Other volunteer opportunities include friendly visiting, playing music, sewing bears for families experiencing loss, and even brining a dog to visit in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

I started as a hospice volunteer hoping to connect with patients and be supportive to their families. To me, being a hospice volunteer was a life changing experience. A passion for working in end of life care was immediately ignited and I am grateful for the opportunity to dedicate my time to connecting with the community and helping people understand the benefits of volunteering.  My hope is to inspire other people to volunteer in end of life care because I was incredibly humbled as families allowed me to be there with them at such an intimate time in their lives. Even the smallest gesture is a tremendous help to our patients and their loved ones and I know from personal experience that hospice volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience.

Both our volunteers and interns receive a comprehensive training about hospice and end of life care. There are ongoing assignments of reading and reviewing scientific journals related to hospice and palliative care and innovative approaches to serving patients, their families and the community. Interns develop perspective on differences in providing care in diverse environments. The primary role of patient assignments will be to provide social support to patients and their families and will give interns first hand experience with skills in active listening and evaluating patient and family needs. Interns are strongly encouraged to develop autonomous projects to serve identified needs.

I would like to share our VITAS Volunteer Mission Statement, “VITAS recognizes the importance of a strong and innovative volunteer program. Volunteers are an integral part of the hospice program, allowing VITAS to continue personalizing, enhancing and expanding services offered to patients and families. Through exemplifying the VITAS Values, volunteers serve as patient and family advocates and are proactive in helping to meet the needs of patients and families. VITAS integrate volunteers into the hospice interdisciplinary team by actively recruiting, training, supporting and creatively using volunteers to meet patient and family needs. Volunteers and their contributions are respected and valued.”

An example of one of our specialty programs called “Project Story Keeper”. Volunteers are provided training and tools to practice life review with our hospice patients and their families. They then develop a scrapbook or a DVD with the patient’s voice/video/pictures of their stories. Capturing people’s memories and preserving them for family is a wonderful gift that is appreciated through generations. This project is especially meaningful to me as I found it healing to participate in a creative project when I experienced personal grief.

I look forward to learning about the diverse talents and interests in the community, so please know that you are always welcome to contact me with any questions or for any end of life care resources.

Renee Berry

Volunteer Services Manager

VITAS Innovative Hospice Care®

San Francisco Bay Area

Phone: 510.413.5243

Fax: 510.360.4816

The UCM education committee has approved VITAS as an organization for our Degree Students to work with for their practicum hours.  VITAS came to us through Reverend Sandy Clark, President of UCM.  She received the information on “Project Story Keeper” and after contacting Renee Berry and finding out the amazing things that VITAS is accomplishing we wanted to add our support for such a wonderful organization.  Often our students ask us for suggestions for practicum hours and we are happy to add VITAS to our list.

Reverend Angela DeBry, H.H.D, D.D.


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