When people walk through the doors at Good Shepherd Medical Center they are often worried or scared about what they might find — a life-changing diagnosis, perhaps, or a family member in pain.
Good Shepherd’s volunteers can help provide a friendly, comforting presence in those moments.
Ken Freeman sits in the medical campus’s new building on the north side, greeting patients and providing directions for those who are lost.
“I enjoy being around people,” he said. “Any time I can help someone, that’s where my heart is.”
He donates his time for about four hours a day, five days a week, and gets to know the familiar faces.
“I’ve gotten to be friends with a lot of them who go down to the heart rehab,” he said. “I kid around with them.”
Freeman is one of the few male volunteers who were present at Good Shepherd Health Care System’s volunteer appreciation luncheon last Thursday. Most of the hospital auxiliary’s volunteers are women.
Joyce Dye, 90, is one of several volunteers who are still going strong in their ninth decade. She volunteers in the day surgery area for about 10 hours a week.
“It’s mostly reception work,” she said. “I help get charts out for the nurses, I make sure the families know where their patient is, I get them coffee.”
She said she enjoys being able to do things to help the families out as they’re worried about their loved ones.
She used to be chair of the hospital’s gift shop. Besides helping out with reception work, greeting patients and other duties at the medical campus, members of the Good Shepherd Hospital Auxiliary run the hospital’s gift shop and put together other fundraisers throughout the year, funneling the money back to the hospital for medical equipment and handing out scholarships to local residents studying to join the medical profession. The auxiliary was founded in 1956.
On Thursday they presented the Good Shepherd Community Health Foundation with a check for $23,000 for equipment. They also awarded five $2,000 scholarships to students pursuing a degree in the health care field.
A later event will be held to thank volunteers for the CareVan program, which provides free transportation to medical appointments. The hospital also benefits from the help of its junior volunteers, who were invited to Thursday’s luncheon but were mostly busy with school.
Cindy Schaan, Good Shepherd’s director of volunteer services, said all volunteers help not only the hospital, but the patients and their families.
“They assist them, greet them, make them feel comfortable,” she said.
Schaan said over her 18 years coordinating volunteers she has also gained an appreciation for how volunteer service affects those giving their time, as well. The experience enriches their lives and it is a good way to make friends. Teenage volunteers in the junior program can also become more familiar with the medical field as they decide what they want to do after high school.
During Thursday’s luncheon Nick Bejarano, marketing and communications director, said health care is a highly regulated industry that can sometimes make everything look like another task to check off. The hospital has been focused in recent years on promoting compassion and empathy within its walls, and the volunteers are part of that.
CEO Dennis Burke told volunteers they were part of a strong tradition of volunteerism in the United States. In one study 25% of Americans said they volunteered regularly, representing $184 billion worth of labor per year.
He said volunteers were often the busiest people who “don’t necessarily have the time, but they have the heart and they make the time.”
“We would have a very difficult time if we didn’t have you in various volunteer positions,” he said.