Volunteer Spotlight: Ellen Dinerman and Jim Perdue

January 14, 2016

Former mental health counselor and longtime believer in end-of-life autonomy Ellen Dinerman first heard about Compassion & Choices through a woman in her book group three years ago. “She was a widow, social worker who had done the same kind of work I had done and a metastatic breast cancer survivor,” explains Ellen. “She decided that what she wanted to do with her energy, as long as she felt well, was to work for Compassion & Choices to get this law passed here in Maryland. I just said, ‘I want to help you.’” 

Ellen, a naturally gifted public speaker, regularly gives presentations on end-of-life issues. Her husband, Jim, inspired by her excitement after meetings, wanted to become involved as well and became chief researcher for the group – a perfect fit based on his career in scientific research, specializing in oncology and endocrinology. He also previously volunteered at Canada’s first palliative-care facility, at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. “I basically provided comfort care for those patients every Sunday. So I’ve seen the end-of-life process quite frequently.”

The couple, who now head the Anne Arundel County Action Team, feel fortunate to be working on this issue with their extraordinarily loyal and committed colleagues, and keep busy with events, speaking engagements and lobby days. “We just spoke Tuesday to a group, and telling them about advance directives, and the reason to have them and to have conversations on end-of-life planning with your family, this is for many people new information,” says Jim. “So we print and bring information and forms, and the table gets emptied. It just illustrates the lack of understanding of all the possibilities that are out there. It’s very rewarding to see people benefit from our work.”

“This is a totally new ballgame for us,” Ellen said. “We’ve never been involved politically. We’ve never been dedicated or committed to a cause as volunteers the way we are now. Our children and grandchildren are seeing us in a new light because we’re so excited about what we’re doing, so we seem to them far from being old or useless, and that’s kind of neat!”  

Compassion & Choices
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Sean Crowley
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Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
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(323) 819 0310

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