By Rosemarie Dowell
of Positive Press News
It’s no wonder Bob and Dorothy Harwood are considered the dynamic duo of volunteers.
The Mount Plymouth couple has been faithfully volunteering at Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care each week for the past 20 and 22 years respectively doing everything from providing respite care to caregivers, to gardening and weeding wherever needed.
Bob is 75 and Dorothy is 76, and neither of them plans to hang up their volunteer hat any time soon, although the novel coronavirus outbreak has sidelined them for now.
“I wish we had 100 volunteers like them,” said Lisa Gray, volunteer specialist at Tavares-based Cornerstone, one of the first non-profit hospices in the State of Florida, which was founded in 1984. “I’d love to put them on a copy machine.”
Dorothy, a retired educator who taught in Lake County Public Schools for most of her 25-year career, became a devotee of Cornerstone when her first husband was under its care in the mid-1990s.
“They took wonderful care of him all the way through to the end; everyone was so good to him,” said Dorothy, who was so impressed with the organization she decided to become a volunteer after her husband passed.
“I wanted to give back to them the way they gave to me,” said the Daytona Beach native, who has a son and daughter, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “They wouldn’t let me start for a year though, to give me time to heal.”
The Harwoods met in 1999 after a friend of Bob’s first wife, who died in 1997, suggested that he contact Dorothy, whom the friend also knew. The couple married the following year and will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary April 15.
Bob starting volunteering with Cornerstone soon after the nuptials and there’s not too much the couple hasn’t done – or wouldn’t do for a hospice patient,” said Gray.
“Bob and Dorothy over the years have done anything that was needed or asked of them,” she said. “Sometimes they’ve done things that haven’t fallen under the list of things volunteers do.”
Take, for instance, manual work in the hot Florida sun.
“A supervisor called and asked if I’d help a patient who wanted to work in his yard,” said Dorothy. “So, we pulled weeds and transplanted plants.”
“Then, he mentioned he had a pond in his backyard so I helped him muck out his pond,” she said. “That was fun.”
Other times the couple provides much-needed respite for an overwhelmed caregiver.
“We had a patient that we had for a long time,” said Bob, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy before becoming a contractor for Lockheed Martin for 17 years. “It was about four years before he passed away but we are still friends with his wife and visit with her as much as we can.”
“Some people you only get to meet once before they pass on,” he said. “A lot of them come to mind – each one is different, that what makes it so rewarding.”
The couple spent countless hours beautifying the grounds of the Tavares Hospice House for years too, but lately they’ve been volunteering at Edgewater in Waterman Village in Mount Dora visiting patients a couple hours each week.
“We spend 15 to 20 minutes with each patient we have,” said Dorothy. “We can’t go now because of the coronavirus though.”
Bob said many patients have shared their life stories with him over the years: I’ve learned a lot about World War II from veterans who’ve shared their stories with me.”
The Harwoods said even though they know they are not supposed to get close to patients, it’s impossible not to care about them.
“They are special people; we appreciate the time we have with them,” said Dorothy. “I highly recommend volunteering at Cornerstone, it’s very rewarding.”
Editor’s note: Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care is always looking for dedicated volunteers like the Harwoods. Go to cornerstonehospice.org to find out how you can become a volunteer.