VIDEO: Area Hospital Volunteers Heal With Smiles, Compassion, Positive Attitude

By  //  November 4, 2015

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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.

On April 2, 2011, the first day Viera Hospital was open for business, Sharon and Harald Jacobsen were already at their posts.
On April 2, 2011, the first day Viera Hospital was open for business, Sharon Harald Jacobsen was already at the job. (Keith Betterley 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.

ALLAN GAIR – Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center

Someone once asked Allan Gair what he thought his role in life was.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-GAIR-poster-580“I told him it was helping others,” said the West Melbourne resident who volunteers as many as six days a week at Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center.

When friends say he should get paid for what he does, Gair replies that he does, in a very special way.
“It’s in my heart,” he said.

Since 2006, Gair has been a familiar face at the Melbourne hospital. In fact, for many visitors, he is the first face they see, for Gair works on the front desk at the Emergency Department, and also drives the eight-passenger courtesy carts that ferry visitors back and forth from the hospital parking lot.
It can be a very emotional experience to work at the hospital, says Gair, who has comforted families checking on relatives admitted to the emergency department.

“You try and help them forget their pain,” added Gair, who also serves as the go-for guy for the staff in emergency.

“I get wheelchairs, stock the shelves, get blankets for patients and coffee for visitors. The staff in emergency are the most amazing people.”

Additional duties for this devoted volunteer include scheduling, arranging training and filling the volunteer slots for four daily shifts seven days a week.

Gair retired to Brevard in 1999 after a long career teaching in New York City and Long Island schools. He has served as volunteer assistant to the ranger at Palm Bay’s Turkey Creek Sanctuary and as registrar for Brevard Elder Learning, among other volunteer efforts.

Holmes Regional, however, is a very special place for him.

“I expect to do this until I die,” said Gair. “I can’t see myself ever leaving here.”

PAULINE DANIEL – Health First’s Palm Bay Hospital

Pauline Daniel had never volunteered for any healthcare facility before she joined the auxiliary at Health First Palm Bay Hospital, but she soon discovered that she truly loved devoting her time and energy to her hometown hospital.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-DANIEL-poster-580“I had worked in the traffic department of a large corporation in New Hampshire before retiring here, and a friend suggested I volunteer at the hospital,” said Daniel, of Palm Bay.

Daniel may have had no experience with healthcare facilities, but she soon discovered she was a natural at hospital work.

As chairman of Palm Bay Hospital’s Teen Auxiliary Volunteers, Daniel is in charge of 27 young people.
“We keep track of their work and assign them to services,” said Daniel.

It’s a win-win situation with these teen volunteers, because while they are helping their community, they are also earning service hours that will help them snag a scholarship once they graduate from high school.

In addition to her work with the teens, Daniel is also chair of the Transitional Care Unit, which helps hospital patients reintegrate back into the community’s mainstream.

On most Wednesday nights, Daniel can be found at the hospital’s joint replacement unit, where she is often the maître d’ and server for patients heading home the following morning.

“I serve the special gourmet dinner for patients going home the next day,” said Daniel, who not only acts as server, but also buses tables and helps prepare and clean up for the special event.

As district director for the Association of Florida Health Care Auxiliaries and Volunteers, Daniel travels the area to visit the 19 hospitals affiliated with the organization.

She has logged more than 13,000 hours since she began volunteering at Palm Bay Hospital in 2007 and that doesn’t include the hours she spends volunteering at the Palm Bay Senior Center.

“It’s almost a full-time job,” she said.

VIRGINA LeMASTER – Wuesthoff, Melbourne

When Wuesthoff Medical Center Melbourne opened in December of 2002, Virginia Le Masters and her husband, William, were among the first to join the new hospital’s volunteer corps.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-LEMASTERS-poster-580Except for a leave of absence during William’s illness and his passing, LeMasters has continued her volunteer service at Wuesthoff to this day.

She is a natural at the information desk, that critical first point of contact where anxious patients register for outpatient tests and visitors seek to connect with their loved at the hospital.

“Virginia makes Wuesthoff’s patients’ and visitors’ lives just a little bit easier by being present for them and letting them know she cares about them,” said Sandy Williams, director of Senior Services and Volunteers at Wuesthoff Health System.

Wuesthoff is only one of many organizations that benefit from LeMasters’ helping attitude. She is active with Ascension Catholic Church, Wickham Park’s Senior Center and the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Elks’ Lodge #1744.

During the holidays, LeMasters also helps out at the Daily Bread. In fact, LeMasters is often a hard person to reach at home, because she is always volunteering.

At Wuesthoff, LeMasters enjoys working with staff members in admitting, laboratory, diagnostic and surgery, individuals who share the same passion she has for helping others.

“I am fortunate to work with employees at Wuesthoff Melbourne that go the extra mile,” said LeMasters.
“It gives me a good feeling to know that I’m able to help someone and let them know someone cares and that they are not alone, especially those who come in by themselves,” said LeMasters.

“We have so many patients register for surgeries or admit themselves alone, with no one to comfort them. I have seen strained, sad faces transformed into smiles and hope being restored.”

LeMasters’ cheery attitude touches the hearts of people at very vulnerable moments in their lives, but, like all good volunteers, she believes she receives more than she gives through her efforts.

“It excites me that I am part of the team at Wuesthoff Melbourne,” she said.

“I get much more from my volunteering than the service I could ever render. I have been a volunteer for over 50 years and as cliché as it sounds, it still holds true that after God and family, there is no greater happiness than to be able to help another person help themselves.”

SHARON & HARALD JACOBSEN – Health First’s Viera Hospital

On April 2, 2011, the first day Viera Hospital was open for business, Sharon and Harald Jacobsen were already at their posts.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-jacobsen-580-2When the couple retired to Viera from Ohio, they began searching for a venue where they could make a difference as volunteers.

“This is something we wanted to do in order to give back to the community,” said Sharon Jacobsen, a former dental assistant and esthetician. “We also absolutely love it.”

For some time, Sharon was involved with the hospital’s patient care unit, but she now has been reassigned to help with joint replacement and bariatrics patients. She will get supplies to ready rooms for patients and do about anything she can to help the nurses. Perhaps most importantly, though, is the comfort she provides for the patients.

“They’re scared, they’re lonely, they want someone to talk to,” said Jacobsen. “They are so grateful that someone cares. It’s very rewarding.”

In addition to these duties, Jacobsen helps wheel outpatient surgery patients back to their cars, answers phone for the third and fourth floors, leads guest tours and even helps decorate during the holidays. As a Silver Spoon volunteer, she can also help feed patients.

Harald, a retired engineer with Exxon and American Electric Power, spends three days a week at the hospital, helping out with guest services and in the administration office for the volunteer corps.
“He would go every day if he could,” said his wife.

While Viera Hospital receives much help from the Jacobsens, the couple feel they, too, are in a winning situation.

“It gives us a purpose to get up in the morning to know we’re making a difference,” said Jacobsen.

RUSS SHERIDAN – Wuesthoff, Rockledge

It’s no mystery that volunteering is good for the soul, but in Russ Sheridan’s case, giving time to the community is also good for the body.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-SHERIDAN-poster-580-1As courier for Wuesthoff Medical Center Rockledge, the Cocoa resident for the past four years has clocked about four to five miles during each of his four-hour shifts.

“Russ volunteers every Wednesday and Thursday mornings as a courier, where he delivers equipment and supplies to the various nursing units, takes specimens to the laboratory and runs other errands throughout the hospital,” said Sandy Williams, director of Senior Services and Volunteers at Wuesthoff Health System.

“To say the staff thinks he’s awesome would be an understatement. He is without a doubt one of the most cherished volunteers. Whatever needs to be done, Russ is there doing it.”

The job is very different from Sheridan’s 25-year career running water plants for Orlando Utilities.
“In the past, my job entailed being in front of computers for ten to 12 hours a day,” said Sheridan.

When retirement arrived for Sheridan, he knew this was his chance to help the community and stay busy at the same time. Wuesthoff Rockledge was a logical choice, since Sheridan’s wife, Teressa, had spent considerable time at the hospital and Sheridan was familiar with the critical work the facility provides.

In addition to his work as courier, Sheridan has served on the board of directors of Wuesthoff’s auxiliary, first as vice president and later as president and currently as past president.

He has logged in more than 2,300 hours in his four years as a Wuesthoff volunteer.

“When I was working, I had little time to do anything besides working,” said Sheridan. “Now I enjoy working with the patients and staff and I’m keeping my doctor happy.”

SHIRLEY HARRIS – Sebastian River Medical Center

Shirley Harris loves watching the Atlanta Braves and “Jeopardy,” globetrotting (she’s visited 121 countries), gardening and working at the gift shop of Sebastian River Medical Center.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-HARRIS-poster-580In fact, Harris really, really loves helping out at the hospital.

“She has provided over 10,000 volunteer hours as commitment to the community,” said Anthony Gabriel, director of volunteer services for the Sebastian healthcare facility. “She is a tremendous asset to our volunteer team.”

Sebastian River’s gift shop is unique, because unlike many other hospital stores, the gift shop donates all proceeds from sales to charities throughout the area, including the Salvation Army, the Ecumenical Council of Church’s food bank and soup kitchens in Fellsmere and Gifford.

“We also have a food drive twice a year and ask people to bring in food to the gift shop,” said Harris, who in addition to being gift shop chairman also serves Sebastian River as treasurer of its 200-member hospital auxiliary.

A native of Hendersonville, North Carolina, Harris and husband, Arthur, retired to Florida in 1997. She soon after began volunteering at the gift shop, where her duties are encompass scheduling volunteers to man the checkout during the six days a week the store is open.

“I’m also the number one “filler-inner” when people don’t show up,” said Harris.

She is the gift shop’s bookkeeper, too, and spends three days a week doing bank deposits and paying bills.

“My husband jokes that I’m at the gift shop so much I should take a bed there,” said Harris.

Harris’ efforts at the gift shop even often include lending a sympathetic ear.

“You meet a lot of people who need someone to talk to,” she said. “They’re looking for somebody to listen to them, and we do that.”

VICTORIA JAMES – Health First’s Cape Canaveral Hospital

If you’re one of those people who have little hope for today’s youth, then you obviously haven’t met Victoria “Tori” James.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-JAMES-poster-580Although Tori is just out of high school, as a volunteer with Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital she has already affected significantly and positively the lives of all she encounters at the Central Brevard health care facility.

“Tori came to us in her senior year of high school with interest in the medical field,” said Leonne Sherr, manager of volunteer services at Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital.

“The impact this young lady has made on our program, our lives and the lives of the patients and families she touched in her service cannot be measured.”

Tori, who earned a 4.2 GPA at Edgewood Junior/Senior High School, is currently pursuing health studies at the University of Central Florida.

She was selected by Cape Canaveral Hospital to receive Space Coast Medicine’s Volunteer of the Year kudos not only for her previous service, but because of the promise she holds for excellent patient care in her future.

“Hers is a story of giving back and paying it forward,” added Sherr.

Tori exhibited outstanding empathy and compassion during her work on the pilot of Project Boost. At the hospital’s gift shop, she is dependable and enthusiastic. Visitors to the hospital are met by Tori’s warm, friendly and helpful welcome.

Cape Canaveral is not the only hospital touched by the brightness of this young woman. For her senior project, Tori also helped to organize a toy drive for Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando.

Her cheerful, caring attitude earned her the Gladys Mosher Scholarship for Medical Studies from the Cape Canaveral Hospital Auxiliary.

“This is a young person to keep an eye on,” said Sherr.


Parrish Medical Center Auxiliary reflects the level of commitment that make these organizations a critical part of hospitals. Since the group was launched in 1959, the Auxiliary provided 2.2 million hours of volunteer service to the hospital. Yes, that’s right, 2.2 million.

HOSPITAL-VOLUNTEERS-PARRISH-poster-580The Auxiliary’s 200 adult and 95 teen volunteers annually give 65,000 hours of their time to help their hospital with duties that include assisting patients, driving shuttles, helping at the front desk, manning the gift shop and serving as couriers throughout the hospital complex.

Auxiliary president Michael Van Heusen estimates that he puts in 180 hours a month keeping the Auxiliary running smoothly. Additionally, Van Heusen is first vice-president of the Association of Florida Healthcare Auxiliaries and Volunteers, a position that takes him throughout the state.

Like most members of the Auxiliary, Van Heusen was hooked on helping once he tried the job.
“I’ve done just about every type of job with the Auxiliary,” said Van Heusen, on his fourth year as president of the organization.

A profile of a “typical” Auxiliary volunteer is non-existent, because these volunteers span all ages and careers.

Van Heusen himself was involved in technology, traveling throughout the world for Oracle. The age bracket spans everyone from high school students to retirees such as 92-year-old dedicated volunteer Evelyn Dickinson.

“She has been with us for 29 years and has served 16,700 hours,” said Van Heusen.

Operating the Pink Angel Gift Shop allows the Auxiliary to impact the future by raising thousands of dollars to fund 20 annual scholarships for students pursuing a healthcare career.

Additional fundraising projects include Lifeline, which serves 300 homebound seniors with emergency alarms. Auxiliary members donate their time to train the participants and maintain the equipment.

Parrish’s Auxiliary is the smiling faces and caring hearts that help Parrish Medical Center raise the bar on a healing environment.


The 2015 Central Florida Humanitarians have been announced and include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities. Also announced today was the honoree for the Lifetime Achievement.

Recognizing Outstanding Individuals & Organizations Who Dedicate Their Time, Talent and Treasure

The 2015 Central Florida Humanitarians include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities. 

The Central Florida Humanitarian honorees will be recognized during a Gala event on Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.

The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created six years ago by Maverick Multimedia, publisher of Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and Space Coast Daily, to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their time, talent or treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.

The 2015 Central Florida Humanitarians have been announced and include outstanding individuals and organizations from the medical, business, education and governmental communities. All Humanitarian alumni are presented a specially commissioned medallion.

TIME: In this category consider candidates who have selflessly and consistently devoted their time as volunteers at hospitals and nursing homes, in activities for the less fortunate and as organizers, administrators or operatives in the many other altruistic endeavors in our community.
TALENT: In this category give consideration to those who have volunteered their special talents and expertise to address specific circumstances in which the lives of those in need are improved.
TREASURE: The humanitarians in this category will include those who have generously shared their monetary good fortune and/or volunteered their time and efforts in fund raising for the advancement of a philanthropic cause.

All 2015 honorees will be featured in the Oct/Nov 2015 edition of Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and

2015 Central Florida Humanitarian Sponsors

The first Gala was held in 2010 and is produced by Brevard Productions.


• Brevard Family Partnership
• Brevard Neighborhood Coalition
• Brevard Special Olympics – Debbie Spence
• Lila Buescher
• Canine Companions for Independence
• Childrens Hunger Project
• Circles of Care
• Ginger Davis
• Cove Merchants Association
• Dr. Brian Dowdell
• Early Learning Coalition of Brevard
• Betsy Farmer
• Darcia Jones-Francey
• Harris Corp. Foundation
• Malak Hammad
• John & Cynthia Handley
• John Harper
• Mike & Stephanie Haridopolos
• Sheriff Wayne Ivey
• Robert Jordan
• Dr. John Lovejoy Jr. & Dr. John Lovejoy III
• Victor Luebker
• Rita Pritchett
• David Schmitt
• Oscar & Turney Sieveking
• The 2015 Central Florida Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement honoree is Dr. Anthony Catanese.


As always, the Central Florida Humanitarian committee will also honor hospital and hospice volunteers from Health First Hospice, the Dr. Jey Pillai Center for Hospice Care at Wasdin Woods, VITAS, Hospice of St. Francis, Health First Cape Canaveral Hospital, Health First Viera Hospital, Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center, Health First Palm Bay Hospital, Wuesthoff Medical Center – Melbourne, Wuesthoff Medical Center – Rockledge, the VA Clinic in Viera, and Sebastian River Medical Center. 

Dr. Jim Palermo
Dr. Jim Palermo

“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.

“For the sixth consecutive year, we will once again produce the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala on the first Thursday of November. This year, more than 42 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala.”

The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will be part of Space Coast Medicine Week, a comprehensive series of health and educational events produced by Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and Space Coast Daily.


This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by M.H. Williams Construction, Parrish Medical Center, SOAR, Brighthouse Networks, Wuesthoff Health System, First Choice Medical Group, Clear Choice Health Care, Florida Pain Institute, Brevard Geriatrics, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Dr. Mark Pinsky, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and Each honoree or organization will be presented the Central Florida Humanitarian Crystal Globe.

Giles Malone

“We would like to thank our long list of sponsors who support the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards and who make this wonderful event possible,” said Giles Malone, a partner with Maverick Multimedia and Brevard Productions, who annually produce all the events of Space Coast Medicine Week.


Stay tuned to and Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine for exclusive and comprehensive multimedia coverage of each honoree as we present their compelling stories.

Tom Palermo
Tom Palermo

“Please join us on Thursday, Nov. 5 to celebrate and be inspired by these incredible individuals and groups,” said Maverick Multimedia President & Publisher Tom Palermo. 

“In the meantime, please click the link below that showcases the distinguished Central Florida Humanitarian Alumni.”


FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-323-4460 or 321-615-8111 or e-mail


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ABOVE MAP: The 2015 Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will take place Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, located at 200 Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.