BCMC honors volunteers this week

Published 11:12 am Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lifestyles & Features Editor

This is the first installment in a two-part series about volunteers at Beaufort County Medical Center.
A phone rings, and one pink-clad lady reaches to answer it as another leaps to her feet, anticipating another request from some far corner of Beaufort County Medical Center.
They’re part of a large volunteer force that helps keep the Washington hospital running smoothly. In recognition of their efforts, BCMC is observing National Volunteer Appreciation Week today through Saturday.
On Friday afternoon, five delightful and energetic ladies were “on duty,” relaxing in the volunteers’ lounge while awaiting their next assignment. Working that shift were Cheryl Schuch, Claire Poley, Ruby Moore, Mary Mills and Bessie LaVictoire.
They’re representative of the approximately 100 adults who, joined by over 50 junior volunteers, contributed a total of 17,554 hours to the medical center last year, according to statistics provided by Pam Shadle, director of marketing and public relations for Beaufort Regional Health System.
Those hours are the equivalent of more than nine full-time employees, and the monetary value of the volunteer work is estimated at $309,625.
The ladies working Friday afternoon, and their peers who volunteer hours during the rest of the week, are called upon to carry out a variety of tasks. They work under the guidance of volunteers director Jan Hamblin and assistant director Gayle Morgan.
When the phone rings, they never know into which direction they’ll soon scurry.
More often than not, they get to spread a little cheer throughout the hospital’s halls. Sometimes they push a cart with get-well cards carefully filed for delivery to patients; at other times, the cart is brimming with colorful floral bouquets sent to patients by family and friends.
They deliver food trays and menus from the kitchen, transfer files from one department to another or operate wheelchairs bearing patients who are being discharged and on their way home. They especially like it when their passengers are new moms, bearing a precious little bundle.
Volunteers also like to do something a bit special for the littlest patients.
“Some will knit baby blankets for them to take home,” Poley said.
But the work isn’t always easy, since not all patients go home.
“It can be very, very hard with the terminally ill,” Poley said. “But we try to bring comfort to the families.”
Each volunteer works a four-hour shift at least once a week; some choose to do more.
“I work four hours on Friday and four hours on Monday,” LaVictoire said. “It’s a good way to give some of my time and get to know a lot of people.”
“I like to look at it as giving back to the community,” Moore added.
In a setting where nurses no longer wear the traditional, starched white uniforms of days gone by, the volunteers stand out in their bright pink tops provided by the medical center. Most sport pins designating their years of service to the facility.
The volunteers say their contributions help free up time, allowing the doctors and nurses to concentrate on healing.
“This allows them to spend time doing what they’re supposed to,” Poley said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Volunteering has other perks, as well. For example, they are treated to a free lunch every day they work and they all gather for a group luncheon annually. And at Christmas, those who work in upper management at the medical center cook a holiday meal for everyone else, including doctors and nurses, maintenance and housekeeping staff and, of course, the volunteers.
In Tuesday’s Daily News, volunteers talk about what led them to give of their time in support of Beaufort County Medical Center.