Volunteers create a home-like setting for afternoon tea

Every Friday afternoon, the family room at the Palliative Care unit (Unit 43) at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital is transformed into a cozy setting where patients and their families can share a cup of tea and homemade baking.

The tea service is thanks to a group of four dedicated volunteers who spend time making the treats, shopping for food and supplies, and setting up. You can tell that Nellie Shores, Marianne Roberts, Deanna Jensen and Marg Haggarty work seamlessly as a team.

They love preparing this event because they see the benefit to the families and patients. All of their faces brighten when a patient or family member enters the room. They deliver tea in a china cup and saucer to those sitting around the table and ensure that everyone has a bite to eat.

“It’s something that is very beneficial to the patients and their families, that people can come in and relax for a little while. This gives them an opportunity to get together and to chat with each other - just having a tea in a china cup instead of Styrofoam,” says Nellie.

For those unable to leave their rooms,  the ladies bring the tea service to their bedsides. 

Volunteers Marg Haggarty and Marianne Roberts help palliative patient Maria Simon with her tea.

Volunteers on palliative care go through a special training program to help them deal with the emotional needs of the patients.

Marianne notices how adapting to palliative care can be a challenge for some patients.

“Unit 43 provides support for patients in the final stages of their illness. It is sometimes difficult for many of them to adjust to this change, and we hope that we can help provide a small bit of this support and comfort,” she says.

“The tea is special and something they look forward to - a day they get away from their rooms.”

“I am very blessed to volunteer here. I think it is a benefit to the people here. It is good for us to have the opportunity to be able to be of some help to people who are in need at the time,” adds Nellie, who has been volunteering with the tea for more than two decades.

Deanna’s husband died in the unit 18 years ago, and she wanted to give back. Besides supplying the popular homemade pickles and baking, she plays the piano during the tea service.

“It gives it a lighter mood to this unit,” says Deanna.

The tea has become the highlight of the week for both the volunteers and the guests. Many people return solely for the event years after their loved one has died because they want to visit.

“It’s like a big family. Everyone is pretty close here,” says Marianne.

Paulette Clark, 67, is a former patient of the unit. She spent four months at Unit 43 for treatment of the cancer on her spine. After returning home, Paulette had to come back with her husband because she missed the tea.

“When you are in the hospital and have a daily routine that you eventually get a little bit tired of, there is that one thing out of the week that you look forward to because it is a change in routine and it brightens your day,” she says.

Former Palliative Care unit patient Paulette Clark enjoys a piece of lemon meringue pie.

The best part of the tea for Paulette is the people, plus the fact that the ladies ensure she has some lemon treats to eat.

“You get to know faces. You get to know some of the people and that is what makes it the greatest,” she says.

Paulette adds that the tea could not go ahead without the volunteers.

“They are unreplaceable. They have done an awesome job. I give them such credit. They are not young people. It’s work to put something on like this. I think all the people here certainly appreciate it,” she says.

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