Volunteer of the Month: Keith Reed, Bayada Hospice

By Miranda Jonswold, United Way of Northwest Vermont Volunteer Columnist

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When Keith Reed first met Gordy through BAYADA Hospice, he knew he had met a wonderful friend. Two years later, he still thinks back on the relationships he’s made, lessons learned, and memories that he will carry with him for a lifetime.

BAYADA provides a range of clinical care and support services at home for children and adults of all ages. With hospice care, it is “so much more than end-of-life care; it’s about living and making the most of the moments that really matter.” This translates to expert medical care and symptom and pain management, as well as social, emotional, and spiritual support.

This resonated with Reed when he came across BAYADA Hospice on Volunteermatch.org. Reed had an interest in volunteering and was also inspired to take action from professors as an undergrad at the University of Vermont.

That’s how he met Gordy, a retired colonel and World War II veteran.

“He was very pleasant and in good spirits,” Reed recalled. “Whenever I’d walk into his room, he would light up. He always remembered who I was and that he liked me.”

Gordy took pride in sharing his stories with Reed.

“His whole family grew up in military and the war; lessons were more focused on personal responsibility--for me that translated to social responsibility,” Reed explained. “He was definitely someone who thought you had to support your community. Be grateful. I think he reinforced those ideas in me.”

Before long, Reed’s time with Gordy concluded and he left for summer break. When he returned, he was assigned to meet with Jerry, a retired chef, writer, and cartoonist. In addition to providing companionship, Reed also acted as a typist for Jerry as he recounted his life.

“He had a very dry sense of humor and was very direct; he doesn’t hold anything back!” Reed said.

As Jerry’s typist, Reed memorialized as many stories as he could. He believed that it was therapeutic for Jerry.

“He wanted to get published in the New Yorker for most of his life, and it didn’t work out...but he still wanted to get a few things down on paper,” he explained.

Reed sent the written works to Beverly Hill, a BAYADA Hospice volunteer coordinator.

“I really like him! He’s on the ball!” Jerry shared about Reed before he passed away in December.

Jerry’s impact lives on.

“After going into see Jerry--being this man’s best friend in his last days--made all of my own problems and anxieties seem small. Whenever I’d leave a visit, I felt more centered, more humbled.”

After researching neurological and psychiatric disorders at UVM, Reed graduated in December and now serves as a student success coach at CityYear in San Jose through AmeriCorps. He will start with CityYear again in August in Manchester, New Hampshire, closer to his hometown in Derry. When he is not volunteering, Reed enjoys the outdoors.

Alison DeFisher