HOSPITAL VOLUNTEERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
By Maria Sonnenberg, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living // November 5, 2014
central florida humanitarians
ABOVE VIDEO: Hospital volunteers 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.
Provide Dedicated, Compassionate and Conscientious Service Across the Healthcare Community
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 Central Florida’s best hospital volunteers.
EDNA LAVANDIER, Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center
Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center operates seven waiting rooms that serve as gathering points for families and friends of patients, as well as for patients who are visiting the hospital for outpatient procedures and diagnostics.
Chances are excellent that when you visit one of these waiting rooms, you might be greeted by the smiling face of Edna Lavandier.
The South Melbourne Beach resident has been part of the hospital’s auxiliary for 15 years. As waiting rooms coordinator, Lavandier is in charge of orchestrating auxiliary presence at all seven spaces.
“I coordinate the activities, so there is a certain cohesion in all of the waiting rooms,” said Lavandier. “Some of the rooms are for patients going into surgery, others are where family members are waiting to hear about their patient.”
As the Melbourne hospital has grown, so has Lavandier’s responsibilities.
“There were only two waiting rooms when I first started,” she said.
In addition to the administrative duties, Lavandier is chair of two of the waiting rooms, so she often can be found in one or the other.
During her tenure, Lavandier has served as treasurer and vice-president of the auxiliary. She feels destiny pointed out Holmes Regional Medical Center to her.
“When we moved here, our builder found us an apartment where we could live while our house was being built,” said Lavandier. “The apartment building now overlooks the garage at Holmes.”
When her husband passed away in 1999, Lavandier felt she needed to reach out to help others. She chose Holmes. Like all good volunteers, she feels she gets back as much as she gives.
“I get satisfaction out of doing a good job in a place that’s pretty important,” said Lavandier.
ANGIE BAUMGARDT, Health First’s Palm Bay Hospital
Angie Baumgardt has dozens of angel figurines scattered throughout the house. Most have been given to her, for Baumgardt is known as the Smiley Face Angel at Health First, where she has volunteered at Palm Bay Hospital and Holmes Regional Medical Center.
Baumgardt’s sunny attitude makes her a perfect hospital volunteer. She has logged in more than 13,500 hours helping Health First staff and patients since she moved here from Ft. Lauderdale in 2005.
“I started volunteering at the hospital even before I had finished unpacking,” she said.
Her interest in volunteering was ignited from the excellent attention hospital volunteers had given her husband before he passed away many years ago.
“They took such good care of him that I wanted to do the same for others,” she explained.
Currently, Baumgardt is the smiling face at Palm Bay’s information desk, but she has done pretty much any duties needed, from making beds to being president of the auxiliary at Holmes Regional.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” she said.
“It’s so rewarding. There’s always something every one of us can do to make someone’s day special.”
The perks of the job include plenty of camaraderie, says Baumgardt.
“I’ve made lifelong friends,” she said.
She sees each patient as special, and for the people she has touched with her smile and her caring, Baumgardt is also very special.
“I always try to put a smile on everyone’s face,” she said.
REBECCA SILVERT, Wuesthoff – Melbourne
As a retired nurse, Rebecca Silvert knows all about the anxiety and stress that is often part of a hospital visit for patient and their loved ones, so Wuesthoff Medical Center Melbourne volunteer has made it her mission to make folks visiting the hospital as much at ease as possible.
Silvert volunteers two mornings a week at the information desk, where she assists visitors and helps register patients for outpatient tests.
Registration staff members know that when Silvert is there, the information desk is well covered. She goes out of her way to reassure all visitors that their needs will be met.
She has also served as treasurer of the board of directors of the hospital’s auxiliary,
The former Emmaus, Pennsylvania resident moved to Melbourne and immediately began giving of her time and expertise to Wuesthoff. She also volunteers for Meals on Wheels once a week.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Silvert was one of the volunteers who rushed over to help with medical needs.
“We were assisting physicians for two week,” she said. “It was a very humbling experience.”
Her interest in helping others began when Silvert was in high school and joined her hospital’s candy striper team. Her nursing career included orthopedics and diabetes education.
Wuesthoff staff consider working with the kind, capable and hardworking Silvert a privilege and a treat.
BARRY BROWN, Health First’s Viera Hospital
Viera resident Barry Brown had managed a staff of 200 people – and the budget to accompany them – while working for Xerox Corporation in Rochester, New York.
When his son was born, Brown chucked the corporate world to be a stay-at-home father, but as soon as his son went off to Columbia University, Brown turned his attention to helping his community.
Six months after Viera Hospital opened four years ago, Brown knocked on the hospital’s doors to offer his volunteer services. Having such an extensive business background made him a shoo-in in the administration of the hospital’s extensive volunteer corps.
“I assist in the oversight of the volunteers,” he said.
Visitors to the hospital may not realize it, but to safeguard patients, hospital volunteers have to go through extensive training and background checks before they can spend even a minute volunteering. Vaccinations must be current, too.
The voluminous paperwork this creates needs someone with high organizational skills, someone like Barry Brown. Recently awarded his 1,000-hour badge, Brown helps out at least eight hours per week at the hospital.
In addition to his work with Viera Hospital, Brown is a lay Eucharist minister at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cocoa Village, where he also helps out behind the scenes with, you guessed it, administrative duties.
In between his volunteer work and travels to visit his college son in New York, Brown spends time training the family’s pet, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Cooper.
Working at Viera Hospital has provided Brown with a built-in circle of friends and the knowledge that he is making a difference.
“I like to be part of an organization that is doing good in the community,” said Brown.
BARBARA CAMODY, Wuesthoff – Rockledge
Some volunteers will give of their time, up to a point. Others have an abundant desire to help and will pitch in whenever they are needed. Barbara Camody is of the latter variety.
Camody, who has been a volunteer at Wuesthoff Medical Center Rockledge for the past three years, is a volunteer coordinator’s dream.
Camody volunteers every Wednesday afternoon at the hospital’s surgical waiting room, where she assists families and visitors and keeps them informed of their patients’ progress through surgery. She also frequently fills in for other volunteers who can’t make it in to work for one reason or another.
Camody is an “almost native” Brevardian, growing up in the area after her father retired from the Navy and went to work for Rockwell at the Cape.
Like her dad, she worked at the Cape. After a 39-year career, she retired to a life of leisure, which lasted about a year.
“I stayed pretty busy doing stuff, but I wanted to give back,” said the Merritt Island resident.
She applied to be a hospital volunteer and hasn’t looked back since.
“I enjoy tremendously what I do,” she said.
Waiting for a loved one’s surgery is a very stressful time, but Camody goes out of her way to make families feel at ease.
She demonstrates her servant’s heart in all her interactions with visitors, whether it is by holding the hand of an elderly lady waiting to hear of her daughter’s condition, or soothing an anxious wife whose husband is undergoing a cardiac catheterization procedure.
“I try to keep the conversation going to make them as comfortable as possible to relieve the stress of the moment,” she said.
Barbara is always present – and a present – for the people of Wuesthoff.
ROSE MARIE BREINLINGER, Sebastian River Medical Center
You would think that with helping her husband fight Parkinson’s disease and helping her 100-year-old mother remain independent in her own Palm Bay apartment, Rose Marie Breinlinger would have her hands too full to help anyone else, but the Barefoot Bay resident makes it a point to leave time aside to volunteer at Sebastian River Medical Center.
In fact, Breinlinger helps a lot at the Sebastian hospital. As president of the hospital’s auxiliary, Breinlinger is in charge of volunteers, about 220 of them, individuals from all walks of life joined together to provide critical services to the hospital at no cost at a time when hospital budgets are constantly being slashed.
“I don’t think they would be able to manage without all of us,” said Breinlinger. “We do so many different things. We’re always doing something for some patient.”
As if orchestrating the activities of more than 200 volunteers were not enough, Breinlinger also assists at the hospital’s endoscopy department.
“We check linens, fold gowns, make beds, get the room ready for the doctors and help the patients in and out,” said Breinlinger.
Breinlinger has been a hospital volunteer for a decade, and she can’t get enough of it. “The nurses and the patients really appreciate the help we provide,” said Breinlinger.
A native of Long Island, New York, Breinlinger moved to Central Florida 22 years ago. For many seasons, she was president of the Honor New York Club at Barefoot Bay, and also served as a member of the Italian American and German Club at the housing community.
On slow weeks, she volunteers at least 20 hours a week at Sebastian River Medical Center, but it often turns into much more.
Until her knees began to give her trouble, for many years Breinlinger worked at the Sebastian Walmart as a cashier, a job she loved because it afforded her the opportunity to do what she does best.
“I enjoy helping people,” said Breinlinger.
DICK & LINDA BARNES, Health First’s Cape Canaveral Hospital
The couple that volunteers together makes a big difference together. At least that is the case with Dick and Linda Barnes, volunteers par excellence at Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital.
“Richard and Linda Barnes have been active members of the Cape Canaveral Hospital Auxiliary since May of 2009 and have collectively logged over 8,000 documented hours of volunteer service,” said the hospital’s manager of volunteer service, Leonne Sherr.
“These two are amazing and show their dedication in so many ways.”
He started volunteering by helping out with patient transport and shuttle services. She took baby pictures and worked with the hospital’s menu services, ensuring that patients were visited by a smiling volunteer to assist with meal ordering.
Their duties have evolved as the hospital has adapted to better meet patient needs.
Dick is currently chair of the annual Lights of Love, which this year will raise funds to purchase special equipment that will add to patient comfort in the radiology department. He also edits “The Chart,” the Auxiliary newsletter and is communications chair.
In his spare time, he continues the work he started with shuttle driving and transportation.
Linda is the chair for the Auxiliary’s six yearly fundraisers, an important duty that brings in a significant amount of funds to help the hospital’s mission. The result is plenty of cash, an average of $2,000 per event and funds that are directly channeled toward the hospital’s good works.
Both Dick and Linda had originally worked at Boeing, but Dick’s many assignments around the country and Europe helped Linda in her decision to leave the working world.
Originally from Seattle, the couple fell in love with Brevard after Dick was stationed here.
“After we retired here and were done playing for a year, we decided it was time to give back,” said Linda.
The couple is also active with Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach events such as art festivals and SeaFest.
“They are both crucial members of the volunteer team, truly outstanding individuals giving themselves to our community and our amazing hospital,” said Sherr.
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ABOUT THE 2014 CENTRAL 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 30 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 6 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.
“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 M.H. Williams Construction, Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, Clear Choice Health Care, First Choice Medical Group, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain Institute, Sangiv Patel, DDS, PA, Brevard Geriatrics, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and SpaceCoastDaily.com
BELOW MAP: The 2014 Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will take place Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, located at 200 Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.