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12 Who Care 2008: Letha McAlister

12:50 PM, Jul 14, 2008   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Each day thousands of people on the First Coast are helped by Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. Volunteers give their time to help those suffering a life threatening illness and extend that support to friends and family. Hundreds of volunteers go out to provide comfort including Letha McAlister. On any given day she drives to where she's needed.

For the past three years McAlister has shared her compassion for the sick and elderly by volunteering with Community Hospice of Northeast Florida.

Recently, she visited a resident at a Jacksonville assisted living facility. "Bless your heart. You're still tired. It's a little bit early isn't it?" says McAlister as she quietly speaks to Perry Barnett, a 89 year old patient at Southlake Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Old St. Augustine Road. McAlister has spent a few hours each week with Mr. Barnett for the past few months talking, holding hands and reading him the sports section of the paper.

McAlister says her day isn't complete if she's not giving back, doing something for someone. The favor is always returned.

"He's a very kind and generous man. He always thinks about everyone else. He never thinks about himself. If I'm going to feed him he worries that I'm not eating. He wants to make sure that I'm OK"

McAlister not only develops relationships with patients but their entire family. Her southern charm is infectious.

"His face lights up. He's with friends. He knows he is when she comes in and smiles at him," says 87 year old Hazel Barnett, the wife of Perry Barnett.

After McAlister retired a few years back she knew she wanted to volunteer. She remembered how she enjoyed the time she sat with her grandfather during the later stages of his life.

"I thought everything he said was so neat and I wanted to hear everything. While other people were crying and were real sad I wanted to hear what he could tell me about his life."

Now, she's made it her life's calling to visit those who have life threatening illnesses. "I really and truly care about these people. The most important thing in life is to let people know that they matter and that you care about them. I just like to go out and share that with them."

Community Hospice of Northeast Florida has 900 volunteers. "I would love to clone her. A million times over. We would love to have more and more. All of our volunteers are fantastic but she is exceptional," says Isobel Lyle, The Program Specialist of Volunteer Services at Community Hospice of Northeast Florida.

McAlister challenges other people to volunteer with Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, reminding all of us that volunteering is an enriching experience, "Oh, I get paid alot, I'm very high paid."

Letha McAlister, one of our 12 Who Care.

First Coast News

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