Hospice volunteer coordinator Sue Settje finds people with talent
Strings of colorful baubles, sophisticated purses and vases in voluptuous shapes grace one shelf at the Miller Homestead’s Cups Coffee House.
The items are impossible for most women to miss and, sure enough, on a recent morning one woman halfway through a cup of coffee was drawn to the display to inspect a necklace laden with black and white trinkets.
“Only $22,” the woman exclaimed, fingering the price tag.
Sue Settje, who is responsible for bringing the treasures to the coffeehouse to sell, often hears that sort of thing. Settje, a volunteer coordinator for Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado, is responsible for integrating much of the sensory experiences that go into the healing experience that hospice provides.
“I’m not the talent,” Settje is quick to point out. “My talent is being able to find people with talent.”
Four acres of thoughtfully fashioned gardens on hospice’s grounds are testament that Settje has found and nurtured that talent.
Of hospice’s more than 1,200 volunteers, 80 of those folks work to incorporate flowering greenery year-round through the organization’s Tanglewood Society. Those volunteers logged in more than 2,000 hours last year though gardening, creating floral arrangements in the Hospice Care Center, and maintaining merchandise displays.
Coming back to work for hospice is a natural fit for Settje. She has been both a staff member and a volunteer for the nonprofit for 16 years, stationed in her latest role for about the past three years.
Years ago Settje remembers when hospice would serve 50 patients a year. That has grown to 400 patients a year. Hospice was started locally in 1993 as a compassionate way to offer care to those with serious illnesses in the end of life stages and to offer support to loved ones.
“We know that every life we touch has a more graceful way of leaving this world,” Settje said. “We not only touch the patient’s life, we touch the loved ones’ lives as well, with grief counseling to get them through a difficult time.”
Settje is proud of the lovely and calming gardens that Tanglewood volunteers have created. All of the plants were donated, and each garden and feature is sponsored by area businesses.
Many of the gardens are in their second and third years and starting to fill out. The area, which is enclosed by a half-mile walking path and dotted with artful benches and water features, is a draw for patients, their families and staff.
“There is a lot of research done that being in a serene setting surrounded by nature is therapeutic,” Settje said. “There are raised beds that if someone is in a wheelchair they can cut a fresh herb or they can touch and feel the flowers.”
Tanglewood volunteers have a knack for bringing the outdoors in by rearranging donated floral arrangements. Volunteers separate the larger bouquets into smaller more personal arrangements to spread joy at the care center.
Settje’s role is to ensure volunteers are placed into roles that fit their personalities. She still laughs thinking about a time when a woman really wanted to volunteer at hospice but, unknown to Settje, abhorred gardening. The woman lasted about half a day with her hands in the dirt, but after coming clean about her needs, found other work that fit her skills within the organization.
Hospice is always seeking volunteers and has a variety of chores that span a broad range of talents, Settje assured.
“It’s such a wonderful, beautiful place to work that I just can’t imagine anybody not wanting to work here,” she said.