For almost 12 years, Patti Bowman found herself housebound and bedbound, forced to retire from her fulltime nursing career to battle a Lupus disease that made her body ache uncontrollably. She was young – in her 30s – and thankfully had a strong support network of friends and family.
Still, in her darkest hours, Bowman needed more. There were moments she wanted to talk about death, about her potential funeral arrangements, about spirituality and life and what could come. She needed to talk to someone who wasn’t vested in her life like family, and who could simply converse about the things she needed to talk out.
And that was when a connection was made. Bowman discovered Pathways Volunteer Hospice, a Lakewood nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to providing compassionate care to families living with illness and loss.
“It was a huge part of my life during those challenging years,” said Bowman, now in remission and a Pathways volunteer herself. “Every week – like clockwork – they gave me someone to talk to about life and spirituality and the world going on outside my four walls. I just can’t say enough about this organization and what it gave me.”
Today, Bowman serves on the frontlines of Pathways, answering phones three days a week to help individuals in Los Angeles County find the resources they need when it comes to hospice, caregiving and bereavement support.
“We’re a lifeline for people,” said Cindy Skovgard, executive director of Pathways. “There are no strings attached. Anyone who calls us will receive a response. If we aren’t the answer to their problem, we’ll work to find the right resource for that individual.”
The nonprofit, established in 1985 as a community outreach effort by Lakewood Regional Medical Center, touches the lives of nearly 700 individuals annually and thousands more through community outreach. Skovgard credits the extensive reach to the support she and her four-person team receive from the estimated 120-plus Pathways volunteers, all trained by the nonprofit in the art of caring for hospice patients, the elderly and children and families in grief.
“Each client has different needs,” said Skovgard. “In some instances our volunteers provide companionship for a frail or chronically ill person, and in other instances we help kids at schools who have faced the loss of a fellow student or family member.”
Volunteers are matched with cases that are suited to their skillsets and the needs of a client, and all of the services are provided for free – no insurance needed.
“So many families face the heartbreaking challenge of losing a loved one to a prolonged illness, and often times don’t know where to go for help,” said Supervisor Don Knabe. “Pathways’ incredible group of volunteers offer a shoulder of support to lean on for anyone in their time of grief and sadness.”
As the organization has grown, more people in the community have learned about Pathways, often through local hospitals and word-of-mouth, but Skovgard says she is committed to raising more awareness, and perhaps even a satellite office.
In the meantime, she said Pathways welcomes more volunteers and donations. To learn more about Pathways, become a donor or volunteer, or inquire about receiving Pathways support, call 562-531-3031 or visit their website at pathwayshospice.org.