“The patients totally light up whenever Harley enters the room,” said Jeanette Barber, a retired administrative assistant who worked for Georgia Pacific in Palatka for 25 years, of her visits to the Roberts Care Center with her black Labrador Retriever. “They are so appreciative of Harley’s visits. When she puts her head on their bed or licks their hand, it takes their mind off everything for a little while.”

Barber was born in Hyattsville, Maryland, but has been a Palatka resident for 45 years. She originally attended volunteer training through Haven Hospice in 1989 when the Palatka office had just opened. Barber spent her first 12 years as a volunteer helping patient caregivers by visiting patients in their homes.

“Unfortunately my job got so demanding and required so much of my time that I had to step away for a little while,” said Barber who has been married to her husband, Sam, for 21 years. “I was not really involved with Haven again until I was appointed to a board to help fundraising efforts for the construction of the Roberts Care Center through Georgia Pacific – that was a three to four year process.”

Barber’s most recent volunteering experience with Haven started about 4 months ago, but she hasn’t been volunteering alone.

“I have had Harley since she was six weeks old. She will turn four in late November, and was born on Thanksgiving Day,” said Barber. “It has been a wonderful experience. I have loved every minute of it, and Harley really looks forward to the days we visit the Palatka Health Care Nursing Center and the Roberts Care Center.”

Volunteers are a vital member of the Haven Care Team.  They provide companionship, support and assistance to patients residing at home, in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and hospitals.  They also reach out to grieving families, assist with administrative tasks, serve on special event committees and help staff Attic Resale Stores.  Haven is proud to have more than 700 community members dedicating their time and talents to patients and families in 18 counties across North Florida. If you are interested in volunteering in Palatka, please contact Becky Slobodian at 386.326.4524.