Hospital Volunteers Heal With Smiles and Compassion

By  //  December 20, 2013

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2013 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIANS

ABOVE VIDEO: They help heal with smiles and compassion. Their cheerful and positive attitude can go a long way when patients and family members are under stress. They deliver hope. They often help shape a patient’s first impression of a hospital. Meet some of Brevard’s best hospital volunteers.

Providing Dedicated, Compassionate and Conscientious Service Across the Healthcare Community

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.

TEAM WORK: Several years ago, Mary Ann Tucker, above left, volunteered at the Cape Canaveral Hospital gift shop. Soon therafter husband Rich, above right, joined as a transportation volunteer for the hospital. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

TEAM WORK: Several years ago, Mary Ann Tucker, above left, volunteered at the Cape Canaveral Hospital gift shop. Soon therafter husband Rich, above right, joined as a transportation volunteer for the hospital. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

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.

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

They help heal with smiles and compassion. Their cheerful and positive attitude can go a long way when patients and family members are under stress. They deliver hope. They often help shape a patient’s first impression of a hospital. They are the volunteers.

They share their love, experience and time with patients, visitors, staff and administrators. They are the hospital volunteers.

They help heal with smiles and compassion. Their cheerful and positive attitude can go a long way when patients and family members are under stress. They deliver hope. They often help shape a patient’s first impression of a hospital. They are the volunteers.

They work without pay in a variety of healthcare settings, where they are critically important members of the healing team, benefitting patients, visitors and the healthcare system they serve.

Meet some of Brevard’s best hospital volunteers.

ELIZABETH VON BOECKMAN – Health First Holmes, Regional Medical Center

Elizabeth Von Boeckman knows Holmes Regional Medical Center extremely well. With a medically fragile son and a plethora of health problems of her own, Van Boeckman has on many occasions been a frequent visitor to the Melbourne hospital.

BOECKMAN-388-1“I was there all the time with my son, so I started helping in pediatrics,” said the Palm Bay resident. “I saw the need and wanted to give back.”

Von Boeckman went into volunteering with renewed passion after undergoing open heart surgery in 2000. Her heart had so debilitated her that she could hardly walk.

“My doctor suggested I get active, so I began volunteering at Holmes as a courier,” she said. “I ended up walking five miles a day. It was good for my mind and my health.”

Since then, she has become an always welcoming fixture at Holmes, fighting issues such as COPD, diabetes, a pacemaker and cancer along the way. Illness may keep her down for a bit, but Von Boeckman always gets back to giving of her time as soon as possible.

“Elizabeth has been with the auxiliary for 10 years and has over 11,5000 hours of service,” said director of volunteer services Marcia Phillips.

“Elizabeth has been with the auxiliary for 10 years and has over 11,5000 hours of service,” said director of volunteer services Marcia Phillips. “She has served in numerous services such as courier, teen volunteer program, community outreach and patient discharge, and has been in leadership positions on the board. Liz is a phenomenal volunteer who has a heart for service, is an asset to our tem and a strong advocate for Health First.”

“She has served in numerous services such as courier, teen volunteer program, community outreach and patient discharge, and has been in leadership positions on the board. Liz is a phenomenal volunteer who has a heart for service, is an asset to our team and a strong advocate for Health First.”

Famous around the hospital for her beaming smile and abundant hugs, Von Boeckman makes it her goal to enrich the lives of patients and their families.

“I can relate a lot to the issues these people are going through,” she said.

She hates it when illness forces her away from her favorite activity: helping at Holmes.

“My doctor tells me that I’m like a flower without sunshine when I’m not able to volunteer,” she said.

FLORA KELLY – Health First Palm Bay Hospital

A member of the hospital’s auxiliary for 17 years, Flora Kelly has provided more than 22,000 hours of service to Palm Bay Hospital.

KELLY-388-1“Flora models the Health First values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence,” said director of volunteer services Marcia Phillips.

Kelly loves recounting the story of how she and her late husband, Fred, became hospital volunteers.

“I worked days and he worked nights as a forklift driver,” said the Palm Bay resident.

“I joke with people that I decided to volunteer after retirement because I didn’t think our marriage would last if we were together. I went to volunteer to get away from him.”

As it happened, Fred also eventually volunteered at Palm Bay Hospital and the couple remained happily married until he passed away in January.

A member of the hospital’s auxiliary for 17 years, Flora Kelly has provided more than 22,000 hours of service to Palm Bay Hospital. “Flora models the Health First values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence,” said director of volunteer services Marcia Phillips.

“He worked at the 24-hour desk and he loved people and people loved him,” said Kelly.

Kelly has served in a number of leadership capacities, including auxiliary president. She is currently the chair of the information desk.

“As people come in, you are the first and last person they see,” she said. “You set the tone for the hospital experience, so I always try to make it a positive one.”

She is happy to help patients in any way she can, including visiting the chapel with them if they prefer not to be alone.

“The most important thing is to let people know we care,” she said.

DOT REYNOLDS – Wuesthoff, Melbourne

Like Flora Kelly, Dot Reynolds is the friendly face people first see upon entering the hospital. A volunteer at Wuesthoff Medical Center-Melbourne since 2008, Reynolds volunteers two mornings a week at the information desk.

REYNOLDS-388-1“She not only assists visitors, but also helps register patients for outpatient tests,” said volunteer coordinator Sandy Williams.

“The registration staff members with whom Dot works sing her praises and love her like a mom. Dot always wears a welcoming smile and is a joy to be around.”

Reynolds is a firm believer in humor as an antidote against stress, so she delights in joking with the patients to help them feel more comfortable.

“They come in white-knuckled and I tell them I can do the procedure for them at half-price. When I’m on the floors visiting patients, I like to joke around with them. Wherever you are, humor is the best medicine.”

Reynolds credits her grace under fire abilities to her previous career.

“I taught kindergarten at Freedom 7 in Cocoa Beach without any air conditioning,” she said. “If you can do that, you can do anything.”

MAUREEN SAYLOR – Health First Viera Hopsital

Since she became a volunteer at Viera Hospital in February of last year, Maureen Saylor has clocked in more than 700 hours of volunteer service.

SAYLOR-388-1Saylor is a V.I.V. – Very Important Volunteer – at Viera Hospital because not only does she cheerfully help out with direct service to patients, but she is also in charge of training new volunteers.

“She trains at least 10 volunteers a month, if not more,” said Joelle Boccabella, volunteer services coordinator for Health First Viera Hospital.

“These volunteers provide for the emotional needs of patients and family, so Maureen has a very important job.”

Viera’s volunteer corps provides support in 35 different areas of the hospital, and Saylor developed all the Power Point training materials for the volunteers in these areas. She also has a permanent volunteer position in both Patient Enhancement ICU and the Medical Surgical HUC Support.

Saylor’s attention to detail makes her the perfect volunteer.

“She’s very thorough with everything,” added Boccabella. “She’s a huge asset.”

BETTY FLATT – Wuesthoff, Rockledge

Wuesthoff Health system volunteer coordinator Sandy Williams remembers how years ago Betty Flatt would attend volunteer meetings with two of her many grandchildren in tow.

FLATT-388-1“She is a devoted grandmother and volunteer and has endless energy,” added Williams. “Betty has an incredible work ethic and will jump in anytime we need a substitute. She is the epitome of the dedicated volunteer.”

Flatt has manned the information desk and worked at diagnostic imaging and in the surgical waiting room, where she is currently the attendant and information desk receptionist.

Among the highlights of her career as a Wuesthoff volunteer since 1987 is her term as president of the health system’s auxiliary in 2002 and 2003.

You’ll find Flatt at Wuesthoff five days out of seven, putting in approximately 30 hours a week.

“I love helping the families feel comfortable,” said Flatt. “A smile is worth a million words.”

“Betty has an incredible work ethic and will jump in anytime we need a substitute,” said Wuesthoff Health system volunteer coordinator Sandy Williams. “She is the epitome of the dedicated volunteer.”

With five children, six step grandchildren, 14 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren, Flatt has spent innumerable hours helping out during Little League and other youth sports and activities. In fact, she earned a 20-year pin in Scouting.

A resident of Brevard for 56 years, Flatt fondly remembers Wuesthoff in its early days.

“I had a child there when it was a little hospital on the hill,” she said.“I’ve always been part of Wuesthoff.”

RITA OWENS – Sebastian River Medical Center

Rita Owens has a can-do attitude, a strong will to build a  great team and commitment to service, says Anthony Gabriel, patient advocate and director of volunteer services at Sebastian River Medical Center.

OWENS-388-1“Rita Owens is a real treasure for Sebastian River Medical Center. She shares her time and talent with everyone she meets in the hospital.”

The Sebastian resident began volunteering 16 years ago when she first moved to the area.

“I wanted to do something with my life,” she said. “Instead of puttering away during retirement, I wanted to help people.”
One of her current volunteer passions is the new Patient Ambassador Volunteer Program that provides non-clinical services and patient visits.

“Rita Owens is a real treasure for Sebastian River Medical Center,” said Anthony Gabriel, patient advocate and director of volunteer services at Sebastian River Medical Center. “She shares her time and talent with everyone she meets in the hospital.”

“We try to make it easy for the patients,” said Owens, who admits her volunteer job keeps her on her toes.

Owens has helped in the hospital’s diagnostic center, in the gift shop, as a messenger and as the official record-keeper of individual volunteer hours for the hospital. On the auxiliary’s board of directors, she has served as its president and vice president.

“There’s always something different every day. You have people looking for help in so many ways that it sometimes takes a little detective work on our part.”

MARY ANN & RICH TUCKER – Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital

Several years ago, Mary Ann Tucker decided to volunteer at the gift shop of Cape Canaveral Hospital. She loved the job at first, but eventually wanted a bigger challenge.

TUCKER-388-1Enter husband Rich, who suggested she join him as a transportation volunteer for the hospital.

“She was getting bored, but now we have fun all the time,” said Rich Tucker of Merritt Island.

Working as a team, they are an unstoppable force that helps move patients to the hospital’s many diagnostic facilities. When patients are discharged, they escort them to the front door and wait with them until their transportation arrives.

“The best are the moms with the newborn babies,” said Rich Tucker.

For director of volunteer services Dolores Cross, they are a dream come true.

“If you’re short on help, they will stay all day,” she said. “They’re tremendous.”

“We see what these nurses and doctors have to do, and we appreciate them so much. There are so many good people in the world. Volunteering does us so much good, too.”

Cross notes that although Rich has clocked in 1,400 hours, he has yet to beat Mary Ann’s 2,100-plus total. He’ll give it a try, though. Both Tuckers feel volunteering is the least they can do for their community.

“We have been so fortunate and we have so much to be thankful for,” said Mary Ann.

“We see what these nurses and doctors have to do, and we appreciate them so much. There are so many good people in the world. Volunteering does us so much good, too.”

MARY MASTERSON, Viera VA Clinic

When Mary Masterson first saw the 2000 film “Pay it Forward,” she was immediately moved to follow the movie’s altruistic lead.

MASTERSON-388-1“It left an indelible mark in me,” said Masterson, who has volunteered at the Department of Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Viera since 1999, the year the clinic opened.

Masterson has spent so many hours helping out that she received the President’s Call to Service Award, awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have completed more than 4,000 hours of community service and is the highest level of the President’s Volunteer Service Awards.

Helping America’s military is second nature to Masterson, whose husband, a career military man, left her a widow at a young age because of exposure to Agent Orange.

“He retired while in the hospital at Andrews Air Force Base and died 14 days later,” said Masterson.

After she retired from teaching, Masterson knew it was time to volunteer.

Mary Masterson has spent so many hours helping out that she received the President’s Call to Service Award, awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have completed more than 4,000 hours of community service and is the highest level of the President’s Volunteer Service Awards.

“You can either shut yourself at home or go out and be useful,” she said.

“My husband was a workaholic and if I had sat around he would come down from heaven and get me out of the house.”

In addition to her work at the outpatient clinic, Masterson is very involved with the charitable foundation of Indian River Colony Club, the predominantly military community where she lives in Melbourne.

She is part of a team that helps with estate sales in order to raise funds for the foundation, which helps both Colony Club employees who have fallen in hard times, as well as organizations that aid the military and their families.

“If you live in a military community, you learn to take care of each other,” said Masterson.

“You do what you have to do.”

ABOUT THE 2013 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN AWARDS

CFHA-SPONSORS-200-1The 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 30 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, Florida Pain, Forever Florida, MPAC ACO, Brevard Geriatrics, Community Credit Union, Clear Choice Health Care, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, First Choice Medical Group, 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.


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