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Blog: Stories and Insight

Threshold Choir Bring Music to Samaritan Patients

The Threshold Choir sings at the thresholds of life in over 200 communities around the world, bringing songs of comfort with their words and music. Now, the South Jersey Threshold Choir has volunteered to share their songs with Samaritan patients and their loved ones. 

Marie Ford spent eight years as a primary nurse for Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, calling her time with Samaritan her favorite job. It’s not surprising that when her love of music led her to start a local chapter of the Threshold Choir, one of her first thoughts was to volunteer for the organization that held a special place in her heart. 

A member of the Philadelphia Threshold Choir, Marie met Emilie Oberstaedt, a fellow member of a local community choir, when they sat next to each during rehearsal. The women shared an instant connection, deciding to start the South Jersey Threshold group together. The two held their first rehearsal in June 2022. 

Emilie had personal experience with hospice, and appreciated the loving and kind care hospice provided for both patient and family. “I was drawn to the idea of the Threshold Choir,” she says, “because of my experience with hospice and my love of music.”  

Joan Zumoff had been familiar with the Threshold Choir in Rochester, New York, and when a dear friend here in South Jersey became ill, she asked the Philadelphia Threshold Choir to visit. Marie and Emilie stepped in, and as they sang, Joan, a member of the Greater South Jersey Chorus, sang along.  

Joan had experienced the embrace of hospice care in the final days of her mother’s life and thought joining the Threshold Choir would be something she’d love to do in the future. But when Marie and Emilie visited Joan at a concert a short while later and asked her to join them in the South Jersey chapter, she immediately said yes.  

“The opportunity came sooner than expected,” Joan says with a soft smile. 

“It is our honor and privilege to volunteer at Samaritan,” Emilie says, “and we hope our efforts will bring comfort and peace to those who listen.” – Emile Oberstaedt

Now, the three have become a group of nine, seven of whom are completing the steps necessary to become Samaritan volunteers. Members of the South Jersey Threshold Choir will visit The Samaritan Center in Voorhees monthly at first, with hopes to visit every other week and expand their visits to The Samaritan Center in Mount Holly, as well. 

The songs of the Threshold Choir are soft, soothing, and soulful. They are secular and ethereal, with words and notes that find their way into the furthest corners of the rooms and hearts they fill. “It is our honor and privilege to volunteer at Samaritan,” Emilie says, “and we hope our efforts will bring comfort and peace to those who listen.” 

When asked what’s surprised her most about the experience, Emilie replies, “The fellowship of people doing this with me. That’s been the most surprising thing for me.” 

Marie smiles and adds, “My involvement with the Threshold Choir has been one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. Music touches many souls.”  

The Threshold Choir’s vision is a world where all at life’s thresholds may be honored with compassion shared through song. Their mission: singing for those at the thresholds of life. The South Jersey Threshold Choir has previously appeared in Philadelphia at the Overdose Memorial Garden and most recently at the Salt Trails Grief Walk.