BCMC valued volunteer

Published 12:30 am Sunday, May 8, 2011

When Jean Ferguson moved to Washington from Tampa, Fla., some 40 years ago, she was looking for a way to meet people, have fun and give something to the community.

She found it as a volunteer at Beaufort County Hospital, now Beaufort County Medical Center. Since joining the fledging corps of hospital volunteers in 1971, Ferguson has logged more than 9,800 volunteer hours at the medical center.

Volunteer Jean Ferguson works to forward a get well card to a patient who has left Beaufort County Medical Center. Ferguson was recently presented an award for her lifetime of service to the hospital. (Submitted Photo)

And that doesn’t include the four years she spent as an unpaid coordinator of volunteers.

Every Tuesday, Ferguson, 82, comes to the hospital around 7:30 a.m., – just in time to sort papers and prepare the volunteer room on the third floor of BCMC before the group of 12 or so who make up the Tuesday morning cadre of volunteers arrives for its shift at 8 a.m.

It’s dedication like this that earned Ferguson a citation for lifetime achievement as one of the recipients of the Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service for 2011.

Managed by the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, the awards honor the true spirit of volunteerism by recognizing individuals, groups and businesses that make a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service.

“I just enjoy being with the people and feeling like I can give a little bit back to the community,” said Ferguson after she was recently presented the award at the hospital.

“Everybody up here appreciates what we do,” she said.

Ferguson said she chose to volunteer on Tuesdays because that’s the day volunteers are most needed.

Jack Pyburn, of Washington, is one of Ferguson’s fellow Tuesday-morning volunteers and one of 17 male volunteers.

“We help provide a happy, positive atmosphere for people when they need it,” he said.

Pyburn began volunteering at the hospital about eight months ago after retiring from his job at Beaufort County Community College. He said he was motivated to join the volunteer corps by his wife, Leah, a volunteer at the hospital for several years.

From its beginnings in 1969, when a 15-member auxiliary group recognized the need for a corps of volunteers at the local hospital, the cadre of people giving their time at the medical center has grown to 106 adults and 58 junior-high- or high-school-aged volunteers.

Last year, the hospital’s volunteer corps donated 13,836 hours of service – the equivalent of more than eight full-time employees – valued at over $250,000, according to Jan Hamblin, director of volunteer services.

Ferguson is among the longest-serving of those.

“She has been an invaluable resource to me,” Hamblin said in nominating Ferguson for the award. “She is the volunteer all directors would love to clone.

“When a member of the staff calls with a job request, Jean is quick to respond. When a patient or visitor needs assistance, Jean takes it upon herself to help them or finds someone with the necessary training. When a fellow volunteer is in need, Jean is there,” Hamblin said.

“She is the tie that binds,” she said.

Ferguson, a native of Charlotte, moved to Washington when her husband, Joe, accepted a position with Gregory Poole Equipment Co. and was assigned a territory with the company that included eastern North Carolina.

Almost immediately after moving to town, Ferguson began volunteering at the local hospital.

Over the years, Ferguson has seen and done it all.

During the early years, Ferguson and the other volunteers worked out of a small bathroom and shared the pink smocks that identify them as volunteers. It was Ferguson who took the smocks home for cleaning and pressing each week.

As a volunteer with the hospital’s Lights of Love campaign, one of Ferguson’s first jobs was to string the Christmas tree lights down a hallway to test for light bulbs that had burned out since the previous year.

She helped make the first banner that hung over Main Street announcing the Lights of Love campaign.

Over the years, she has helped register people for flu shots.

She has delivered newspapers and flowers to hospital patients.

She has taken laboratory specimens from one department in the hospital to another.

She has folded and stuffed mailers.

And she has addressed get well cards that can be forwarded to patients who have left the hospital.

She even kept up her volunteer commitments as her husband battled cancer, and, ultimately succumbed to the disease on Christmas Day a little more than two years ago.

Besides the rewards that come from helping people who need it, Ferguson said, she and her fellow volunteers particularly enjoy the camaraderie among the group.

“You’re not supposed to have fun in the hospital, but we do,” said Pyburn.

Junior volunteer Landon Leggett, 14, who also serves with the Tuesday-morning group, agreed.

Leggett said she originally signed up to volunteer at the hospital to help her chances of getting into a good college.

“I keep coming back because it’s fun,” Leggett said.