Dana VanderMey, Hospice of Santa Barbara’s longtime director of volunteer services, recently retired.
VanderMey first joined Hospice of Santa Barbara in 1984 as a nurse case manager. In her many years of nursing, she saw that death was treated as a purely clinical experience. She had a calling to work with an organization that treated death as an experience that could be infused with compassion, care and dignity.
“She was always thinking outside the box and taking a positive approach to every situation,” said Charlie Zimmer, former executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara. “Laughter was one of her stellar qualities. Her energy, sense of humor, upbeat professionalism and deep caring and concern for patients permeated her work.”
In 1989, VanderMey left Hospice of Santa Barbara to pursue other opportunities, including establishing a community presence for the Congregational Health Care/Parish Nursing Program at St. Francis Medical Center. Her “roll up your sleeves” work ethic earned the program national acclaim.
“Humor helps,” VanderMey said. “It was the patients at Hospice of Santa Barbara that taught me the importance of having a sense of humor.”
In 2001, she returned to Hospice of Santa Barbara as director of volunteer services and was awarded the credential “Certification in Volunteer Administration” by the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration in 2007.
“Stop and take time to smell the roses,” VanderMey said. “We don’t have to be all about the outcomes. We need to remember that life is a process, enjoy the journey.”
During the last 12 years, VanderMey has built the volunteer services department from nine to more than 100 volunteers. The scope of service expanded to include complementary therapy, pet therapy, the No One Dies Alone program, the Beloved Bear program, Life Reminiscence and Spiritual Companion volunteers.
In addition to her work in HSB’s volunteer program, VanderMey is a certified labyrinth facilitator, and conducted workshops for adult education and for Hospice of Santa Barbara’s clients, patients and families. She is also a certified laughter leader and had made many presentations on the vital connection between humor and health as well as facilitating laughter groups for patients with life-threatening illnesses, spreading the message of “laughter is the best medicine.”
“Thank you, Dana,” said Steve Jacobsen, executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara, “for all you have done and all you will continue to do.”
— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing Hospice of Santa Barbara.