East Providence resident gives back as senior care volunteer

Bentz remains active in many charitable efforts

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EAST PROVIDENCE — Steve Bentz of East Providence retired from a long successful career in the insurance business five years ago. Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would then become a hospice volunteer. But when he saw a notice for an introductory volunteer training session offered by Hope Hospice & Palliative Care Rhode Island (Hope Hospice R.I.), he signed up.

“I was looking for something to keep me out of trouble,” he joked recently. “And it certainly has done that.”

Mr. Bentz found the training so worthwhile that he became a patient volunteer and in time, took even more training to become a peer competency evaluator for his fellow volunteers as well as provide bereavement counseling to family members.

“My parents both received hospice services years ago, so I had an interest in it from that positive experience,” Mr. Bentz said. “But it’s far more rewarding than I even suspected.

“I’ve learned that the way out of this life can be easy or difficult. But we all need to be helped through it. Hospice is about making things easier and providing comfort. And it feels great to be a part of that.”

Mr. Bentz, who also volunteers for Haven United Methodist Church, Literacy Volunteers of East Bay, and the Scholarship Foundation of East Providence, regularly visits Hope Hospice R.I. patients in their homes and long term care facilities, serving as a supportive friendly companion who can give family caregivers a break from the often challenging demands of caregiving.

“I try to connect with our patients,” said Mr. Bentz. “Whether it’s sports, politics or military service, we usually can find a common interest. It’s a special challenge with dementia patients, but I’ve learned how to make it work.”

Deanna Upchurch, grief support & volunteer programs manager for Hope Hospice & Palliative Care Rhode Island (Hope Hospice R.I.), said Mr. Bentz is an example of the many heroes that serve as volunteers for the organization.

“We have more than 330 volunteers, all of whom are essential partners to our paid professional staff to help fulfill our mission,” Ms. Upchurch said. “We are delighted to especially celebrate and thank them in April for National Volunteer Month.”

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