A volunteer for Hospice of the Valley since 1981, Fred Appel has been instrumental in the growth of this organization. In the 1970's, Appel's wife died of cancer. Family sacrifices were made to care for her at home since there were no organizations to support them. When hospice care came to the area, Appel was the first to sign up and has been actively promoting the concept ever since. In his 18 years as a volunteer, Appel has spent time with hundreds of patients and their families, helping them through one of the most difficult times of life. He has logged more than 65,000 miles on his car and has given more than 3,000 hours of his time.
Each year, Hospice of the Valley serves 600 patients with terminal illnesses and their families. Working with dying patients takes special skill. Most people are not eager to volunteer for the task, until they meet Appel, who is affectionately referred to at the agency as "Mr. Hospice." To each patient, he brings his unique humor and a special trademark to remember him by—the Fred Appel "apple," a real apple filled with flowers. This helps to foster a bond and makes the patient and family feel at ease.
Appel is committed to the power of learning and its role in hospice care. He has attended national seminars and conferences, at his own expense, to learn more about hospice. When traveling, he often visits hospices and talks with the staff. When he returns home, he shares with his peers was he has learned. He inspires other volunteers, staff and board members through his leadership and selfless dedication to the mission. He also serves as a mentor for new volunteers and catalyst for improving the program with his ideas.
Recently, he was assigned to a patient who was estranged from his wife because of his terminal illness. When Appel discovered that the wife liked to paint and the husband enjoyed woodworking, he came up with a pattern they could work on together. At each visit, he encouraged them until the project was completed. This is only one small example of how his actions have helped to bridge the gap terminal illness can create.
At age 84, and now a cancer survivor himself, Fred Appel has never slowed his pace or given less than 110%. He still volunteers for patient assignments and organized all of the community outreach presentations.