At Henderson hospital, volunteers are crucial

Apr. 11, 2014 @ 08:19 PM

The first person a patient or visitor will see upon entering Maria Parham Medical Center is likely to be a volunteer.

A volunteer is at the front desk to answer questions or give directions. And volunteers offer their services to patients and visitors throughout the hospital.

Although not formally a part of the staff, volunteers may be the most public face of the hospital.

“We depend on them,” said Bob Singletary, the chief executive officer of Maria Parham. “They’re crucial.”

“We have 40 to 50 active volunteers,” said Lisa Radford, the hospital’s volunteer coordinator.

Their duties are varied, from greeting patients and families in the lobby to helping patients and families in the various units of the hospital.

Some of their activities are supported by the fundraisers held periodically.

Volunteers push the book cart around the hospital, Radford said. Books on the cart are donated and are given to patients to keep or pass on.

Volunteers provide a shuttle service between the building and the parking lot. And they operate the gift shop.

On a recent day, volunteers Rachel Combs and Hedda Harriss were working in the Surgical Outpatient Unit.

“We make sure the rooms are ready,” Combs said. “We meet patients at the front desk and take them back to a room. When they are released, we wheel them out.”

She’s been volunteering half a day a week for almost a year.

In contrast, Harriss has been at it for more than 20 years. The hospital setting is a natural for her. She worked for Dr. Mike Jones, a pathologist, for more than 20 years.

Combs enjoys volunteering, but she’s also looking for a job. She was a field service manager for Kodak until “the whole department disappeared.” She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from East Carolina University.

She and her husband lived in Texas and New York before coming to Henderson.

Among those 40-50 volunteers are some volunteer couples. Ted and Linn Kapus live in Epps Fork, Va., but, according to Ted, spend most of their waking hours in North Carolina. They had lived in several places, including New Jersey and Los Angeles, before moving from the Washington, D.C., area when Ted retired from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Volunteering is not new to Ted.

“When I was young, I volunteered and spent four years in the military,” he said. “This time I volunteered and they won’t let me go.”

Ted and Linn have volunteered at Maria Parham since 1996.

“We retired, I sold my golf clubs and we found better things to do,” he said.

Like some of the other volunteers, Tom Sheridan spent much of his life in other parts of the country. He lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before he retired from the U.S. government and moved to Henderson.

He’s been volunteering 10 years.

“You get more out of it than you put into it,” Sheridan said.

Myrtle White, on the other hand, is a volunteer who claims Henderson as her life-long home.

“I’m in my 38th year as a volunteer,” she said. When she works the front desk, “I give directions. If I think they need help, I take them,” she said.

“Sometimes they just want to talk. I listen.”

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.