March 9, 2019

By Emily Banyas

Village Hospice Administrator Ketti Dawson says she can tell if an individual has the heart for hospice work “because they run to the fire.” Colleen Harris, who was recently honored by the Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association for her volunteer work, is one of these people.

“Colleen provides a strong foundation for our volunteering program. She is a natural-born leader and has a way with patients and their families that is comforting,” Dawson said.

Harris recently was named the winner of the 2019 Administrative Volunteer Award by the Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association.

A retired school counselor who lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Harris has been an integral part of the Village Hospice Volunteer Program since 2009. She is known for going to the extra mile for the patients, families and associates she assists.

“Colleen is a trusted volunteer and mentor and has earned the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with whom she serves,” said Angel Gregory, volunteer manager for Village Hospice.

“We need more volunteers like her. She has a love for comforting and caring for others, and she is a natural fit as a volunteer.”

Throughout her time with Village Hospice, Harris has worn many hats. As a Comfort Caller, Harris visits with patients. When she is an Eleventh Hour companion, she sits with patients and families to offer support and sometimes respite. She facilitates grief groups. Knowing that there is no set schedule when a patient has a need, Harris makes herself available during the week and on weekends. Above all, she has been an advocate for hospice care.

Harris also plays key administrative and planning roles in two important annual Village Hospice events for families who have lost loved ones – the Memorial Service and Butterfly Release event in June and the Hope for the Holidays grief event, which usually proceeds the winter holidays. What’s more, she helped to create a handout that is reminiscent of an Advent calendar for attendees of the 2018 grief seminar. Each door on the calendar opened to reveal a comforting quote. The calendars were so well received that Village Hospice hopes to continue using them to comfort families well into the future.

Harris said that her experiences through Village Hospice have given her opportunities to learn about people, including herself, and what kind of support people should have in times of need.

“The lessons I’ve learned helped a lot recently when my own husband passed away,” she said.

The Heart of Hospice Awards are conferred annually by the Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association at its Heart of Hospice Awards Luncheon in early February in Jefferson City, Missouri.