Published in the Sumter County Times

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 8:55 am (Updated: March 29, 6:37 am)



Former Webster mayor and current Commissioner Mike Harris is all smiles as he individually wraps a batch as freshly-baked cookies for patients and visitors at the Lane Purcell Hospice House kitchen in Sumterville. Harris has been volunteering for nonprofit Cornerstone Hospice for the past three years.



After 35 years in the insurance industry, Barbara Leisner of Lake Panasoffkee took the two-day volunteer training and now is the master of all she surveys at the Lane Purcell Hospice House kitchen, cooking, serving meals, preparing coffee, tea and above, skillfully slicing away a tray of freshly baked brownies for patients, family and visitors to the Sumterville Hospice House.


Michael J. Harris of Webster is a former mayor and current sitting Commissioner of that city in southern Sumter County.  Harris is an Air Force veteran with rank of Airman First Class. He’s an avid world traveler, and yet, finds the time to volunteer for the nonprofit Cornerstone Hospice Lane Purcell Hospice House in Sumterville where he has volunteered for the past three years.


Born in West Helena, Arkansas, Mike Harris enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1950, undergoing basic training at Shepherd Air Force Base in San Antonio and seeing his first overseas deployment take him to French Morocco in northern Africa at a time when the territory was still a French protectorate. Harris obtained his BS degree at University of Arizona and later his Masters in Science at Michigan State, becoming a teacher for many years to children of families working at U.S. government installations stationed throughout Germany, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Philippines and other nations as part of the Overseas Dependent School program. Harris married his current wife Dottie in 1968, they have one child and two grandchildren.


"I love to bake cookies, cook, prepare and serve meals for patients, prepare coffee or tea...and receive the greatest sense of satisfaction and accomplishment knowing I bring comfort to patients with a life-threatening illness".


Relocating to Florida in 1979, Harris was elected as a Commissioner and Mayor in the City of Webster in January 1998, serving four years until 2002 and is currently a sitting Commissioner in Webster.  Having worked four years in Athens and four years in Crete, Harris travels to Greece every summer, visiting the island of Skopelos where his parents were born, were raised and married in the village of Glossa in close proximity to the port of Loutraki by the idyllic Aegean Sea. 




Barbara Leisner, of Lake Panasoffkee, hails from Rockfalls and Sterling Township, Illinois, coming to Florida after a 35-year career in the insurance industry and has been volunteering since 2001.  Prior to relocating to Sumter County, Barbara Leisner lived eight years in Bonita Springs while working at Bonita Veterinary Hospital there.  Barbara has two children, Joseph and Jill, and one grandchild, Jessica, born as a one pound-six ounce premie, but healthy now and living in Missouri.  Barbara and her husband, Frank, moved to Lake Panasofkee in 2000.  Suffering a stroke in 2001, Barbara learned about serious illnesses and realizing she could help patients in worse circumstances than herself, she has been assisting caregivers since soon after her stroke, registered for the Cornerstone Hospice Volunteer Training and now volunteers at Lake Purcell Hospice House, where she is master of all she surveys in the kitchen, cooking and serving meals to patients.  "I'm simply happy to do whatever needs to be done," says Leisner.



Pre-register for the two-day April 11th and 18th Volunteer Training.  Would you want to help a neighbor, friend or make your community a better place to live?  People from all walks of life, like Mayor Mike Harris and stroke survivor Barbara Leisner volunteer their time to help in any number of capacities at nonprofit Cornerstone Hospice's Lane Purcell Hospice House.  People like Ruth Daggert of Coleman and Sandra Gasteiger of the Villages, featured here last year, provide a priceless contribution to Hospice, volunteering their time cooking, answering phones, greeting family members and visitors.  There are numerous tasks dealing directly with patients and families, other tasks that do not.  There will be a two-day training on April 11th and 18th from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., taking place at 2294 C.R. 526E in Sumterville, first building on the left.  If you are interested, please pre-register by calling Kim Carter at 352-569-5305 or Lisa Gray 352-742-6806.  Lunch and refreshments will be provided and training is completely free.  Volunteer candidates are invited to visit as well as for an overview of services provided by Hospice.