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Dream Big: Developing Creative and Effective Volunteer Positions through Pilot Programming

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Ask care providers of chronically sick children or adults how they are coping, and Kathryn Berry Carter bets that they will say they are tired, stressed, and worn out. During her tenure as the Volunteer Services director of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Berry Carter has witnessed first hand how caring for someone with complex medical needs can be tough physically and emotional.

Berry Carter often wanted to find an efficient way for hospital volunteers at St. Jude to help parents get a meaningful break. For years, she notes, “we limped along, providing some respite care for pre-scheduled needs.” In the fall of 2010, Berry Carter’s team became determined to take a hard look at this logistical challenge and to find a way to fix

In this article for e-Volunteerism, Berry Carter explains the steps she took at St Jude to implement a thriving and successful on-demand respite care program, one that has become an integral component of St. Jude’s family-centered care approach. Though the article mainly discusses respite care in a children’s hospital, Berry Carter describes how the same principles can be applied to respite care in settings ranging from senior nursing care facilities and Alzheimer day care facilities to hospital organizations and other pediatric programs.The St. Jude experience can be replicated in any of these settings, notes Berry Carter, who also provides tips on implementing any pilot program that explores new roles for volunteers, regardless of theme.