HOSPITAL VOLUNTEERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

By  //  September 5, 2013

Loading the player ...
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Delicious Digg This Stumble This

2012 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIANS

They are often the first point of contact for patients and visitors to a hospital. Their smiling faces help put us at ease as they guide us through the confusing journey that can be hospital visit or stay. They are surrogate relatives for lonely patients, helping make their hospital stay more bearable. They bring comfort to families under stress.

For hospital administrators, particularly during this battened-down economy, they are heaven sent, for they perform duties that would be costly to duplicate with paid staff.

HOSPICE & HOSPITAL VOLUNTEERS are often the first point of contact for patients and visitors to a hospital. Their smiling faces help put us at ease as they guide us through the confusing journey that can be hospital visit or stay.

These unofficial ambassadors for healthcare organizations are also happy to sing the praises of the hospital they themselves so love.

“We couldn’t do without them and we need more of them,” said Sandy Williams, director of senior services and volunteers at Wuesthoff Health System.

For the staff “in the trenches,” volunteers are their right hands, freeing them from many time-consuming routine duties so they can focus on what they do best: healing.

“They are our eyes, our ears, our ambassadors,” said Debbie Helton, manager of patient relations and volunteer services at Health First Viera Hospital. They share their love, experience and time with patients, visitors, staff and administrators. They are the hospital volunteers.

PARI GUERTIN, Cape Canaveral Hospital

Two knee surgeries, plus countless other hospital stays for her husband and herself, sold Pari Guertin on the idea of volunteering for Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital.

“They took such good care of us that I wanted to help in any way I could,” said the Merritt Island resident.

PARI GUERTIN of Cape Canaveral Hospital leads approximately 100 volunteers who help the hospital and its patients with transportation needs. Her corps of transportation volunteers ranges from high school teens to retirees in their ninth decade of life. It’s a busy department that requires careful coordination. (Space Coast Medicine image)

Guertin estimates she spends at least three hours a day volunteering at her favorite hospital, where she leads approximately 100 volunteers who help the hospital and its patients with transportation needs.

Her corps of transportation volunteers ranges from high school teens to retirees in their ninth decade of life. It’s a busy department that requires careful coordination.

“We help with everything that moves, from stretchers and wheelchairs to hospital beds,” said Guertin. “Our function is very large. We run two shifts a day, with eight to ten people to a shift.”

When a volunteer must bow out from an assignment, Guertin usually steps in. “Pari is the most dedicated volunteer,” said volunteer coordinator Dolores Cross.

A native of Persia, Pari Guertin has lived in Brevard for 34 years. After she retired from a career in scheduling at Kennedy Space Center, Guertin moved into a second career…as a volunteer.

“She is here four and five times a week, checking on her service, filling her shift and filling in when necessary. She also put her life on hold to put in numerous hours when she chaired the silent auction for the Lights of Love event.”

Guertin’s energetic efforts to obtain donations for the auction resulted in raising enough funds to purchase four defibrillators for use in Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital’s emergency room.

A native of Persia, Guertin has lived in Brevard for 34 years. After she retired from a career in scheduling at Kennedy Space Center, Guertin moved into a second career…as a volunteer.

She helped elderly residents remain in their home by delivering for Meals on Wheels for five years and she also delivered food to needy families through the St. Vincent de Paul Society. As her responsibilities at the hospital grew, however, Guertin eventually had to make a difficult choice.

“I was so busy with the hospital that I had to quit the other volunteer jobs,” she said. “Anything we can do to serve the community makes me feel good,” said Guertin.
“The patients are so appreciative of what you do for them. Just to see them smile is reward enough for me.”

MARY JO STRAH, Wuesthoff – Melbourne

For Sandy Williams, director of volunteers and senior services at Wuesthoff Health System, Mary Jo Strah is just what the doctor ordered, a hard-working, committed volunteer who is there for the long run.

“She’s been with us from day one,” said Williams. She does so much, visiting with patients, restocking the nutrition room, making beds if needed and training new volunteers.

SANDY STRAH has helped at Wuesthoff Medical Center Melbourne since the hospital opened its doors in 2002. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

Strah has helped at Wuesthoff Medical Center Melbourne since the hospital opened its doors in 2002.

“My girlfriends at Ascension Catholic Church decided it would be worthwhile to volunteer at the new hospital, so the three of us went down to see how we could help,” said the Melbourne resident. “Two of us are still working here.”

Strah’s “domain” is the second floor medical/surgery floor, where she has put in more than 2,000 hours helping.

“The nurses and the CNAs are so busy that I feel good helping them so they can do tasks that are more important,” said Strah. “I’ve worked all my life, so I’m always eager to take part of the load.” (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

“There are 42 beds and I visit with every one of the patients in those beds,” said Strah.

“I make sure they have what they need, or I try to get it if they don’t. If there is a problem, I try to alleviate it and I’ll alert the nurses and CNAs. Some of the patients need encouragement and others just a good ear to listen.”

The staff depends on Strah to help with restocking supplies or to lend a hand tidying a room for the next patient.

“The nurses and the CNAs are so busy that I feel good helping them so they can do tasks that are more important,” said Strah. “I’ve worked all my life, so I’m always eager to take part of the load.”

A former school teacher in Michigan, Strah tutored at Beach Learning Center for a decade. Like any good teacher, she is glad to guide others, in this case, the new volunteers she trains. “I’m there for whatever it takes to help,” said Strah.

“It is extremely rewarding for me. Almost every day, you meet wonderful people.”

STEPHEN TOWERS, Viera Hospital

We can all learn about caring for others—not to mention investing—from Stephen Towers, who parlayed a five-dollar bill into a brighter day for many staff members at Health First Viera Hospital.

STEPHEN TOWERS of Viera Hospital has been on the job since the facility opened in April 2011. He is team leader for the hospital’s Emergency Department Volunteer Services where he ensures that more than 60 volunteers in the department are fully trained. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

STEPHEN TOWERS of Viera Hospital has been on the job since the facility opened in April 2011. He is team leader for the hospital’s Emergency Department Volunteer Services where he ensures that more than 60 volunteers in the department are fully trained. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

As part of the hospital’s “Small Acts of Kindness” program, Towers was handed a five-dollar bill and asked to make someone’s day better with it.

“He took it to the next level, and was able to make those five dollars multiply,” said Debbie Helton, manager of patient relations and volunteer services at Health First Viera Hospital.

At last count, Towers grew the five dollars to $160 (he won’t divulge how) and used it to make little gift packs to brighten the day of staff members going through rough spots in life. The pack includes a pretty African violet, a packet of plant food and a crisp one-dollar bill, which Towers asks the recipient to use to cheer someone else with a cup of coffee or a similar treat.

“Stephen is the epitome of volunteerism,” said Helton. “He cares passionately about our patients, visitors, staff and fellow volunteers and it shows in his service approach to everything he does in our emergency department.”

From the day the hospital opened, Towers has been at the job. A former teacher for the Broward County School District, Towers is team leader for the hospital’s Emergency Department Volunteer Services.

“Stephen uses his professional expertise as an educator to ensure that our more than 60 volunteers in the department are fully trained and kept informed. It is our absolute pleasure to have Stephen on our team.”

“Stephen uses his professional expertise as an educator to ensure that our more than 60 volunteers in the department are fully trained and kept informed. It is our absolute pleasure to have Stephen on our team.” (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

“Stephen uses his professional expertise as an educator to ensure that our more than 60 volunteers in the department are fully trained and kept informed. It is our absolute pleasure to have Stephen on our team.” (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

Emergency department volunteers greet and usher patients to examination rooms and help families cope.

“If there is anything we can do for them, we do it,” said Towers, who considers himself very much a people person.

He will always remember the husband and wife he found huddled and sobbing in a corner of the emergency waiting room. “They were extremely distraught because the husband felt he couldn’t care for his wife at home anymore,” said Towers.

Towers and hospital staff helped them connect with social services who could in turn help the couple stay together.

“Health First Viera Hospital enjoys an outstandingly high ranking in patient satisfaction in part because of volunteers like Stephen Towers,” said Helton.

ROMAYNE THOMPSON, Sebastian River Medical Center

You could say that volunteering at Sebastian River Medical Center runs in the family for Micco resident Romayne Thompson and her daughter, Sandy McCuen. The mother-and-daughter team is a fixture at the hospital’s gift shop, for which coordinator of volunteer services Anthony Gabriel is extremely grateful.

“It is often difficult for hospitals to get volunteers to man the gift shop, but it is a very important job,” said Gabriel.

ROMAYNE THOMPSON of Sebastian River Medical Center is a fixture at the hospital’s gift shop, for which coordinator of volunteer services Anthony Gabriel is extremely grateful. Gift proceeds go to many charitable organizations including the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association and Easter Seals of Florida. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

In 2010, McCuen was honored by Space Coast Medicine for her efforts as volunteer gift shop manager. Now it’s her mom’s turn to bask in the limelight.

Their work at the gift shop is particularly important because proceeds from shop sales are channeled to worthy charities in the community.
“Over the years, the Sebastian River Medical Center Auxiliary volunteers have given back to the community through our gift shop sales to various organizations in need,” explained Gabriel.

Gifts bought at Sebastian River Medical Center keep on giving, because funds have benefited the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Easter Seals of Florida, hospice organizations, the United Way, the Salvation Army, the local Humane Society, Indian River Alzheimer’s Organization, area colleges and area soup kitchens and food pantries, just to name a few.

Gifts bought at Sebastian River Medical Center keep on giving, because funds have benefited the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Easter Seals of Florida, hospice organizations, the United Way, the Salvation Army, the local Humane Society, Indian River Alzheimer’s Organization, area colleges and area soup kitchens and food pantries, just to name a few.

Thompson, who works four days a week, is proud to be part of the gift shop team, for “her store” even attracts customers from outside the hospital family.

“People come in to pick up gifts they can’t find anywhere else,” she said. “It’s great that all the profit goes back to the community. We donate every penny. The gift shop does a lot of good for a lot of people.”

So, how does having your own daughter as your boss work out for Thompson? “We get along great,” she said. “We’re a team.”

RITA JONAS, Holmes Regional Medical Center

Rita Jonas sometimes has guilt pangs that she so enjoys volunteering at Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center.

“I almost feel a little selfish that I enjoy it so much,” said the Satellite Beach resident. “It’s very rewarding and fulfilling.”

RITA JONAS of Holmes Regional Medical Center has been part of Holmes’ volunteer corps for more than a quarter of a century. “The more I volunteered, the more I loved it. I cannot explain the feeling of satisfaction you get from helping.” (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

Jonas has been part of Holmes’ volunteer corps for more than a quarter of a century. Her love affair with hospital work began when her husband was having surgery.

“I was talking to one of the pink ladies and she was so wonderful, I decided to volunteer,” said Jonas, who at the time was getting ready to usher her last child into college.

“The more I volunteered, the more I loved it. I cannot explain the feeling of satisfaction you get from helping.”

This past president of the Holmes Auxiliary began her Holmes “career” in the dietary department, delivering menus and chatting with the patients. 28,000+ volunteer hours later, the versatile Jonas has helped in many capacities, from leading tours and, as chair of special services, helping exceptional education students settle into their jobs at the hospital.

This past president of the Holmes Auxiliary began her Holmes “career” in the dietary department, delivering menus and chatting with the patients. 28,000+ volunteer hours later, the versatile Jonas has helped in many capacities, from leading tours and, as chair of special services, helping exceptional education students settle into their jobs at the hospital.

“They are so nervous when they first come in, but in just a few days, they start to blossom,” said Jonas.

She personifies service, doing whatever is needed. For many years, Jonas helped out at surgical intensive care and the GI lab waiting rooms. She’s done patient visitation and even conducted “surgery” on the teddy bears brought to the hospital’s Teddy Bear Clinic.

“The children would bring their broken teddy bears and we would fix them,” said Jonas. “I would mend the teddy bear and give it a crutch I made from tongue depressors. The children loved it.”

Her husband, Art, also volunteers at the hospital, helping with patient discharge procedures.

“He tells me he decided to volunteer just in order to get to see me more,” joked Jonas. “In all seriousness, we both love it.”

CAROL MADDEN, Palm Bay Hospital

When it comes to volunteering for Health First Palm Bay Hospital, Carol Madden literally walks the walk. As chair of the hospital’s 24-hour desk, Madden does plenty of walking as she wheels patients up to their rooms and delivers patient paperwork to labs and to the x-ray department.

“There’s quite a bit of walking, but I don’t mind it at all,” said Madden, a Palm Bay resident who has clocked in close to 5,000 service hours in her six years with the hospital. “I never get tired from walking.”

CAROL MADDEN adores her job at Palm Bay Hospital, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity before joining the corps of hospital volunteers. “Somebody once tried to pay me for my help,” she said. “He couldn’t believe I was working for free.” (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

For many patients, the 24-hour desk is their first point of contact with the hospital. Volunteers like Madden provide the smiling faces and sympathetic hearts that help to soothe the stress that is often part of a hospital visit.

“It’s a very busy department, where there is always something going on, ” said Madden.

Because the desk is by the Emergency Room, volunteers often help ER patients. “We have a wonderful group of volunteers working the desk,” said Madden.

When one of the desk volunteers cannot make his or her shift, Madden pitches in.

The North Carolina native grew up in Orlando and lived in Sanford and Merritt Island before settling in Palm Bay to be closer to her daughter.

For many patients, the 24-hour desk is their first point of contact with the hospital. Volunteers like Carol Madden provide the smiling faces and sympathetic hearts that help to soothe the stress that is often part of a hospital visit.

A former administrative assistant for an insurance company, she volunteered for Habitat for Humanity before joining the corps of hospital volunteers. While she loved working for Habitat, she adores her job at Health First Palm Bay Hospital.

“We have all sorts of interesting people coming in,” said Madden. “They appreciate it when someone welcomes them and is friendly to them.”

When not singing the praises of her favorite hospital, Madden can be found singing in the choir of the First Baptist Church of Melbourne.

One patient may have unknowingly given Madden the finest of compliments. “Somebody once tried to pay me for my help,” she said. “He couldn’t believe I was working for free.”

JOHN STERN, Viera VA Clinic

Karen Johnson’s eyes light up when she speaks of John Stem, one of the volunteers at the Veterans’ Administration Clinic in Viera.

“He offers his time freely,” said Johnson, the clinic’s voluntary services specialist. “If he sees a problem, he will fix it. He is a remarkable gentleman and a wonderful asset to our organization.”

JOHN STERN of the Viera VA Clinic is always on the move ferrying clinic patients to appointments in Orlando and other parts of Central Florida. Pictured above with Stern (holding award) is Rudy Wagoner, left, Dr. Thomas Howard and Karen Shamlin, right. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

Stem is also a busy man, for the Eau Gallie resident seems always to be on the move ferrying clinic patients to appointments in Orlando and other parts of Central Florida.

An Army vet and a maintenance engineer at the Cape and at Patrick Air Force Base, Stem had retired, but wanted to use his newly found freedom to help others. He delivered Meals on Wheels and joined Volunteers in Motion, which provides transportation to thousands of elderly and frail individuals who might otherwise not be able to remain living independently.

“There are a lot of people in our community who need help, who have no way of getting to the doctor or the grocery store. Many of these vets are alone and lonely.” said Stem. “It’s my way to give back for all they’ve done for their country.”

“There are a lot of people in our community who need help, who have no way of getting to the doctor or the grocery store,” said Stem.

Stem must like to drive, because when he discovered the need for volunteer drivers at the VA Clinic, he jumped feet first. He’s more than a driver, of course. He’s a friend to the vets.

“He will go above and beyond what is expected of him,” said Johnson. “He will go to appointments with the vets to make sure everything works out. He wants the patients to get the care they need.”

“Many of these vets are alone and lonely,” said Stem. “It’s my way to give back for all they’ve done for their country. It keeps me out of mischief, too!”

MARTI RICH, Wuesthoff – Rockledge

Back in the 1970s, Marti Rich was in a hiatus from teaching and looking for a way to make a difference. When she learned of volunteer opportunities at Wuesthoff Medical Center Rockledge, she knew she had the right spot.

“I needed to talk with someone who was over three feet tall,” joked the Rockledge resident.

MARTI RICH of Wuesthoff Rockledge serves as second vice president of the Auxiliary’s executive committee and as chair of the information desk. As chair of the scholarship committee, Rich helps select recipients of the Auxiliary’s scholarships which are given to students who will pursue a career in healthcare. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

Her love for volunteering at Wuesthoff has endured five decades, almost as long as her love affair with husband William. Marti and William will celebrate their 50th. wedding anniversary next year.

Although she eventually went back to teaching as her family grew up, Rich continued helping the Wuesthoff Auxiliary, serving as second vice president of the Auxiliary’s executive committee and as chair of the information desk. As chair of the scholarship committee, Rich helps select recipients of the Auxiliary’s scholarships, given to students who will pursue a career in healthcare.

“It’s like triage, you do what needs to be done first,” said Rich.

Rich is also active with the City of Rockledge, serving on TREE, The Rockledge Environment Enhancement board.

The Rich’s two grown sons have no children, but Marti and William have grandchildren to spare with the families of the 15 teens they have hosted through their work with Youth for Understanding.  As the area coordinator for the group, Rich helps place students throughout Central Florida for a year living with host families.

Marti Rich has volunteered at Wuesthoff for five decades, serving as second vice president of the Auxiliary’s executive committee and as chair of the information desk. As chair of the scholarship committee, Rich helps select recipients of the Auxiliary’s scholarships, given to students who will pursue a career in healthcare.

Marti and William have opened their home to students from Germany, Greece, South America, Switzerland and Finland. The students keep in touch with their United States “parents.”

“A couple of weeks ago one of our students from Denmark came back for his 30th reunion with Rockledge High School,” said the proud Rich. “We’ve learned so much from them,” she said.

“You should never let a day go by when you’re not learning something new. You always learn from other people. I enjoy being with people. You bring a smile to their faces and they make your life brighter.”

ABOUT THE 2013CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN AWARDS

The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world. 

This year, more than 40 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.

“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.

All Humanitarian alumni are presented a specially commissioned medallion.

“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.

This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, MPAC ACO, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, CentralFloridaMedicine.com and SpaceCoastDaily.com.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastMedicine@gmail.com


Click here to contribute your news or announcements Free