BAY PINES – Chuck Mirasola, a volunteer at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, received a national award from the National Council of Hospice and Palliative Professionals Nov. 6 during the organization’s clinic team conference in Orlando. The event was held at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista.
The 71-year-old U.S. Army Veteran was one of only three volunteers recognized nationally for receiving the NCHPP’s “Volunteers are the Foundation of Hospice Award,” for his commitment and service to Veterans and their families during his time as a volunteer in the facility’s hospice and palliative care unit.
Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Mirasola served in the U.S. Army from 1963-65. Mirasola started volunteering at the Bay Pines VA in 1997 shortly after a 35-year career at the Ford Motor Company.
He volunteered in locations all over the facility to include grounds keeping, the information desk and patient transport. Then, about eight years ago, he started volunteering in the hospice and palliative care unit.
“I wanted to volunteer in the hospice unit because of the safe and caring environment,” said Mirasola. “Remarkable things happen on the hospice unit every day – I wanted to be part of that and thought that I could make a difference.”
Since his time in the unit, Mirasola has completed more than 12,500 hours of volunteer work performing various tasks from cooking and serving food to listening to war stories, consoling families and honoring the memory of those Veterans who pass away.
While his jobs are many, Mirasola said his favorite part of volunteering is being able be there for all Veterans, but especially those who do not have family available to visit them during the last days of their lives.
“I like to be someone (Veterans) can talk to; someone they can trust and feel comfortable with,” he said. “It gets pretty emotional sometimes, but I feel like I have a responsibility to take care of them during a time when they may feel uncertain and scared. Sometimes you only have to listen, and that makes all the difference.”
Beth Whidden, a nurse manager on the unit, described Mirasola as a vital member of the hospice team and someone who is a “shining star and pillar of support” for Veterans, their families and hospice employees.
“Chuck goes above and beyond his duties as a volunteer every day,” she said. “He is a special and caring person that has a real connection with the Veterans who come to our unit. While he won’t admit it, he is more than deserving of the recognition he will receive in November and we are all proud of him.”
Mirasola is one of approximately 1,450 volunteers currently enrolled through the Bay Pines VAHCS Voluntary Service program. Like Mirasola, these volunteers dedicate their time to Veterans and their families while completing various tasks and functions to include parking lot attendants, shuttle drivers, clerical support, patient transport, appointment reminder phone calls, voting assistance and much more.