William McLeod

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

The experience of caring for his mother, Patricia McLeod, who suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, the second most common form of progressive brain disorder after Alzheimer’s, profoundly affected Pastor Bill McLeod. His mother spent her last days peacefully at Community Hospice of Northeast Florida’s Gaston J. Acosta-Rua Center for Caring on Ramona Boulevard before she died in 2010. It led Bill to become one of their most devoted volunteers. Patricia’s suffering devastated her family and she required specialized care.
“Mother suffered extreme problems that devastated our family. When I met the admissions nurse at Community Hospice she knew exactly what my mother had and how to help mom, and me too. She shared with me that her own mother had the same illness. Community Hospice gave mother peace and it was the first time in two years that anyone had ever cared about me and what I was going through. I cried like a baby because I’d found a way to help her and they were going to take care of us,” he said.
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McLeod, a Southern Baptist minister for 34 years in Florida and Georgia, was born in St. Vincent’s Hospital and has been back living in Jacksonville for 12 years. He began his volunteer work for Community Hospice in 2012 and makes twice weekly visits to the Acosta-Rua Center and also visits the new Community Hospice Center for Caring at St. Vincent’s.
“They teach you how to be a visitor, how to speak to patients and provide comfort or help them or their families…they offer what is called palliative or ‘comfort care.’ I spend two to three hours at a time going from room to room speaking to patients…’are you in any pain?’…’Is there anything I can do for you?’ Then I’ll turn to the family and friends…I ask how they are doing. Often they are so tired and may be angry, frustrated or worried. I want to assure them that their loved one is well cared for and share how the Center helped my mother and the peace it gave us,” he said. “I ask if they need anything and I will go anywhere to get whatever they need. I want to encourage and support them. It is a precious privilege to do so.” Community Hospice offers an eight-hour orientation and training for volunteers McLeod said.

Even before his commitment as a volunteer to Community Hospice, McLeod, a spry 70, was concerned for physically, mentally and emotionally wounded homeless people at homeless shelters. For 35 years, wherever he has lived he has found the local homeless shelter and gone there to volunteer, mentor, hold chapel services and generally help in any way needed.
“I was born in 1943 and raised in a middle class family. In 1974 when I was studying the Bible at Luther Rice Bible College/Seminary in Jacksonville, I had a friend who was interim director at the City Rescue Mission. He invited me to come there and speak. I’m ashamed now to say that I had no idea at that time that there were people in America who were hungry and had no place to live. I had never seen that and it broke my heart right then and there. I knew I had found a place where God wanted me to help others living in very different and difficult life circumstances,” he said.

McLeod volunteers at the City Rescue Mission helping to feed meals, holds chapel services, mentors, trains others to do mission and volunteer work both at hospice and the homeless shelter. He especially enjoys gathering warm clothes for the shelter, one of their greatest needs.

Married to wife Bobbi for 43 years, the couple has five grown children, seven grandchildren ages 13-23, and three great-grandchildren: 3-1/2 year old twin boys and a 2-1/2 year old great-granddaughter. The family is scattered and living all over, McLeod said, but holidays are always spent together. Bobbi worked for Air Tran, was a behind-the-scenes constant support as a pastor’s wife and now delights in her fulltime status as grandmother and great-grandmother.

In their free time the couple enjoys day trips together and hours spent reading. Bill pours time into research on various subjects to keep his mind “fresh” and also is a gardener. Bobbi likes to sew, cook and spends much of her time with the family.

an Batty, Community Hospice Manager of Volunteer Services said that Bill has such a compassionate heart he truly understands the mission of Community Hospice to support patients and families through the end-of-life experience.

“With his vast amount of experience over many years, with many people and organizations, he is able to talk to and connect with anyone in such a caring way, he is in one word – awesome,” Batty said. Batty, like Bill, encourage readers to visit the Community Hospice website for more information on volunteer opportunities for individuals or groups.

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