Lin Sue Cooney is director of community engagement at Hospice of the Valley. Contact her at lcooney@hov.org or 602.530.6900. For more information, visit hov.org.

2020 has been a challenging year. COVID-19 has forever changed our lives. But in the midst of global uncertainty and sadness over so many lives lost, I am astonished by the kindness and compassion strangers are showing one another. We truly are “in this together.” As we give thanks for all the frontline workers who are risking their lives, let’s also take a moment to praise the everyday heroes among us. People like Linda Muller, who has a heart of gold and hands of steel.

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Linda Muller; photo courtesy of Hospice of the Valley

By day, Linda works in auditing for CVS Health. By night, the Hospice of the Valley volunteer is a mask-making wizard.

At last count, she had donated 545 masks to the not-for-profit agency, so that family members can safely be with their loved ones at the bedside. From start to finish, it takes Linda 20 minutes to complete one cotton fabric mask. “I have an assembly-line kind of system,” she chuckled. She aims for 60 masks a week, all washable, reversible — and lined for an extra layer of protection.

Linda started sewing as a teenager ― she used to design and create an Easter dress for her mom every year. She had no idea how to make face masks but taught herself by watching online videos posted by Jo-Ann Stores. When the pandemic hit Arizona, she began sewing like a fiend… turning out dozens and dozens of masks for friends, family and frontline workers across the country. So far, Linda has made 800 masks ― even shipping some to “chemo nurses” in South Dakota.

She never sells the masks, but if someone insists on making a donation, she uses the funds to buy more fabric and supplies.

Linda hit the sewing machine as soon as her volunteer visits with patients were suspended due to CDC safety recommendations. Never the type to sit idle, she immediately asked if Hospice of the Valley needed masks. The answer was (and still is) a resounding yes. Linda works full time, but eagerly jumped into action. “I promised to sew as many as I can…working in the evenings, on the weekends, whenever possible,” Linda recalls.

Using her own fabrics and paying for many supplies out of pocket, Linda has been on her own mission: To give back to the agency that provided beautiful, compassionate care to her father over 20 years ago.

“I’m happy to be part of it, however little contribution I can make,” the humble 66-year-old said. “It’s my way of paying it forward.”

Linda became a volunteer with Hospice of the Valley in 2016, a year after her sister was moved into a nursing home in Indiana. Linda’s sister has been battling a fatal brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s since she was in her 50’s. She is 64 now. “She no longer knows us,” Linda shared. “I can’t move across the country to care for her, but as a volunteer, I can provide much-needed respite to caregivers of other dementia patients.”

Her matter-of-fact attitude is comforting to families, who are often overwhelmed by the changes in their loved ones as their cognition declines.

“I’ve seen how dementia works. I understand it, it doesn’t upset me,” she said. “It’s just really rewarding to help them out.”

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Surgical face mask ear guard

Linda is just one of many heroes making a difference in our community.

Three elementary schools in the Deer Valley Unified School District used their 3-D printers to help Hospice of the Valley care teams. They made and donated 500 surgical face mask ear guards — plus stands to hold them.

Volunteers at Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale are crocheting hearts to comfort our patients — something soft and meaningful to hold in the palm of their hands.

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Artistic volunteers are making beautiful cards to cheer patients who are feeling alone and isolated right now.

Others are shopping and delivering essential groceries to our patients and families in need. They’re providing window visits, playing music on patios, making virtual pet visits, chatting by phone or Facetime ― and even recording virtual bedtime stories for medically fragile kids.

Sometimes it takes a little darkness to help us appreciate the light. Our community is blessed to have so many shining heroes. To learn more about Hospice of the Valley’s volunteer opportunities, call 602.636.6336 or email volunteeropportunities@hov.org.


Lin Sue Cooney is director of community engagement at Hospice of the Valley.

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