Your Opinion: Healthy volunteer spirit

Volunteerism is a wellness program.

Volunteers assist health care facilities, help patients recover and, as a result, invariably feel better about themselves.

During National Volunteer Week this week, we focus on health care volunteers, who are being celebrated during the simultaneous celebration of National Healthcare Volunteer Week.

Capital Region Medical Center’s Partners Auxiliary includes volunteers who help raise money and coordinate special events as well as others who contribute their time and talents.

At both Capital Region and St. Mary’s Health Center, volunteers range in age from the teens to the 90s.

And their volunteer hours soar into the tens of thousands. In 2010, Partners volunteered 49,290 hours, while St. Mary’s volunteers contributed 33,517 hours.

The value of a volunteer hour in 2010 was estimated at $21.36, according to Independent Sector, a coalition of more than 500 nonprofit organizations.

Using that yardstick, volunteers contributed the equivalent of more than $1 million to Capital Region last year and more than $700,000 to St. Mary’s.

More important than the monetary value, however, is the personal commitment to help people during trying times.

Valerie Weber, manager of senior services and volunteers at Capital Region, points out volunteer greeters often are the first people patients and their families encounter.

“They set the tone for upbeat, positive customer service,” she said.

At St. Mary’s, Mary Kay Hoelscher, volunteer services coordinator, said volunteers include former patients and their families.

“Our Mended Hearts volunteers, for example, visit patients and families to answer questions and offer reassurance, based on their own experiences,” she said.

Prospective volunteers may contact: Weber at 632-5032 or by e-mail at vweber@mail.crmc.org; or Hoelscher at 761-7000, ext. 4329 or by e-mail at mary_kay_hoelscher@ssmhc.com.

Both agree almost anyone can find a niche among the wide range of available volunteer duties.

And both concur volunteerism benefits not only the facility, staff and patients, but the volunteer, as well.

“Doing something worthwhile improves quality of life.” Weber observed. “Volunteers enrich their own lives.”

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