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Webster's dictionary defines faith in a myriad of ways, including "sincerity of intentions" and "belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion."

Hospice of TRMC is a community-based program that cares for people who have a terminal illness. Hospice empowers patients to live as pain-free as possible, while involving families and loved ones in providing care.

Hospice of TRMC Executive Director Debbie Hare and the hospice staff and volunteers have committed time and resources to not only providing skilled, compassionate care for patients, but a ministry of peace, comfort and dignity during their last days.

That role has earned them the designation as the exemplification of faith for the month of June as part Orangeburg County's "Community of Character" initiative.

"We were very honored and thrilled to have been recognized. I do think … there is a very strong spiritual component not only in our hospice, but in hospice care and its philosophy. We want people to help people live well and help them die well. We believe that spirituality and faith plays a very key role in that," Hare said.

Grief support programs for children, widows and widowers, an annual community candlelight ceremony and special holiday programs are among the organization's initiatives. There is also a chaplain who ministers to patients and their family members according to their individual needs.

"His role is to counsel with patients on spiritual issues … and help them if they're having struggles and difficulties," Hare said, adding that some patients feel guilty about their anger at God.

"We certainly work with people of all different faiths and beliefs. We try very hard to not impose our own beliefs onto others, but to be there to listen to them and share," she said. It is a task which the organization's approximately 40 volunteers take pride in.

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Orangeburg resident Johnalee Nelson has been volunteering her time as a "peacemaker" and caregiver for patients and families for nearly 10 years.

"I've had patients with whom I've had the opportunity to read to, just sit and have conversations with, and go to the drugstore and pick up medication. I feel I'm a people person, and I've always enjoyed being with individuals. My parents always taught me to do unto others as you would have them do unto you," Nelson said.

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She is the wife of the late J. Herbert Nelson Sr., former pastor of St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Orangeburg. Their son, the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, just received his doctorate degree from the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.

Nelson said her background as a minister's wife and mother helps her build her patient's faith in their well-being.

"I had 39 years of love and nurturing with him, and he taught me a lot of things," she said of her husband. She said faith plays a large part in her care for patients who are facing death.

"Faith plays a very important part because it is a time in their life as well as in the life of the volunteer that we really bond together as to who the healer and the creator is. It's an ongoing thing. I don't think any of us really look at it like we're going to talk about faith, but we are concerned because we understand that this journey is not going to be a journey that can be turned around. It's a journey that's ongoing to a better world," Nelson said.

T&D Staff Writer Dionne Gleaton can be reached by e-mail at dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5534.

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