More than Just a Friendly Voice: Weekly Calls from Rainbow Volunteer Provide a Lifeline

Kenyon Kemnitz
March 21, 2024 / 5 mins read

More than Just a Friendly Voice: Weekly Calls from Rainbow Volunteer Provide a Lifeline

by Kenyon Kemnitz

When Wieda Christian was caring for her daughter Wanda at home, hearing a comforting voice on the other end of the phone was just the kind of support she needed during a difficult time.

“That took my mind off what was going on and it felt really good,” said Christian.

Wanda was admitted to Rainbow Hospice Care’s services in May 2021 with congestive heart failure. Each week, a friendly voice was there to listen and put a smile on her face. A voice that belongs to Rainbow Community Care volunteer Ruth Hake.

Ruth makes weekly check-in calls to patients and families who are on Rainbow’s home hospice services to see how they are doing and if they need any medical supplies, prescriptions, equipment, or any other assistance before the weekend.


“You’d be surprised how many people look forward to that call,” said Hake. “Sometimes they don’t have anybody else to talk to. Recently, I called a lady, and she cried on the phone because her granddaughter passed away and I just sat there and listened.”

Ruth has volunteered at Rainbow for over 12 years and calling patients was one of her first assignments when the check-in program was first launched in 2012.

“Back then we had three volunteers who called all our patients, even at facilities,” said Rainbow Volunteer Coordinator Jill Radke. “The program was developed to help reduce calls for supply needs on the weekends when we had only a few staff members on the clock.”

“You can get so busy with your own illness that you don’t realize time is passing and can run out of meds or maybe need a bed,” Hake said. “I always make sure they’re sleeping okay, haven’t fallen, and remind them we’re here to help.”

As Rainbow has grown from serving only a few patients in 1990 to an average daily census today ranging from 150 to 170, Ruth has taken on more and more tasks as a volunteer.

She has helped with several events, provided transportation for Rainbow Friends in Action (a volunteer program that addresses the needs of a growing number of elderly, disabled, and chronically ill individuals who need a little extra help to keep living independently in their homes), and visited patients, embodying all the special qualities that make volunteers the heart of Rainbow.

“Ruth has an excellent telephone voice, sympathetic ear and genuinely cares about our patients, their caregivers and families,” Radke said. “It’s not the same when we make the calls.”

Her favorite part of volunteering remains calling patients and family members.

“My phone calls are fun,” Hake said. “I get to know the people and like this morning, two people thanked me for volunteering. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Ruth even goes to visit the patients if they come for respite care at the inpatient center, so she can pair a face with a voice.

Ruth is a cancer survivor who decided to volunteer because she wanted to help others. With so many options for volunteers to choose from, Ruth encourages others to give it a try. Two years after she started, she recruited her husband to help with Friends in Action.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruth was forced to spend more time at home and could not volunteer. That left a noticeable void in her life.

“I have to check on my people and make sure they’re okay,” Hake said. “I look forward to coming here on Thursdays and it’s a great bunch of people to work with. I’ve met some interesting people along the way.”

Wanda’s condition improved in April 2022, and she was discharged to Rainbow Supportive Care Management, a community-based palliative care program. That was good news for the Christian family because it also meant Ruth’s calls to Wieda could continue. Many Supportive Care Management patients also receive telephone outreach and support from Rainbow Friends in Action.

Ruth kept on calling Wieda every week to check on her and Wanda.

“Ruth told me, I’ll keep calling you anyway, so she called to see how I was doing and if we needed help with anything,” Christian said. “She’s very good at carrying a conversation.”

Wanda’s health worsened in June 2023, and she returned to hospice care. She passed away peacefully at her home with her mother by her side on October 24, 2023.

Ruth met Wieda for the first time face-to-face when she went to Wanda’s funeral visitation in November. Even though they had different pictures made up in each other’s minds about what the other would look like, they weren’t disappointed. It was almost like they had been friends for years.


Ruth and Wieda share a special moment.

“It was funny that we both showed up with red jackets and white hair,” Hake said. “I thought she’d be this little, tiny person, but she’s probably just as tall as me. She wasn’t a stranger. It was like we knew each other forever.”

The toughest part of Ruth’s job is when someone on her list passes away and she doesn’t have to call their number anymore.

“They go away after a while and that’s hard sometimes, but I think it’s given me a better perspective on my own life,” Hake said. “I enjoy it and anything that you enjoy, you do.”

Even with Wanda gone, Wieda’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing.

Ruth still calls Wieda every week now and they talk about what is going on in each other’s lives. Wieda looks forward to the calls and Ruth enjoys their conversations as well.

“Ruth is a very nice person, and she tells me she’s old,” Christian said. “I said you’re young compared to me. I’m going to be 88 in April if I make it. She always says, ‘I have to scoot on out of here now,’ when it’s time for her to hang up.”’

They’ve learned more and more about each other with each call.

“We chat and catch up on what’s going on and stuff like that, and it’s just nice,” Hake said.

Wieda discovered more and more about Ruth’s life and Ruth found out what Wieda needed more than anything was a friend.

“Wieda is alone, and that’s not good when you’re older,” Hake said. “You need people around you and she’s just a fun person.”

“Ruth tells me where she’s been and what’s she done,” Christian said. “She always asks what I’m doing, and I let her know what I did each week. I know she lives faster than I do.”

When Ruth goes on a vacation, it’s no surprise the patients on her list miss hearing from her, including Wieda.

“She’ll say ‘Oh my gosh, you’re back! Hake said. “I’m so glad you called Ruth. I’ve been waiting for your call.”

Wieda’s husband, Elmer, died in 2006 and Wanda has been gone for over four months. Wieda’s house now seems empty without Wanda and there are times it can get lonely.

Wieda’s four cats help with the silence and her niece and nephews come to visit her often. The conversations with Ruth also keep her moving forward each day. Wieda hopes to have a future in-person meeting with her again. Their bond has only grown from a simple phone call into a friendship.

“Sometimes a friendship develops from the most unusual place and it’s good to know that Ruth’s simple act of kindness became something so much more and the conversations continue,” said Rainbow Bereavement Counselor/Chaplain Laura Wessels.

“She’s really a nice lady who is so friendly and caring and you can always depend on her,” Christian said.