CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. – Whether they’re cuddling tiny babies, greeting visitors, easing worries of family members or assisting patients as they leave the hospital, Mercy’s nearly 4,000 volunteers across four states are up to the task and donated more than 595,000 hours in the past year.
“In just 12 months, our volunteers have devoted a total of 68 years of time. That is mind-boggling,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy president and CEO, recognizing April as National Volunteer Month. “Our volunteers impact the lives of our patients, their families and our co-workers every single day. I think Mother Teresa said it best, ‘It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters.’ Our volunteers put love into everything they do, never expecting anything in return. They embody the spirit of Mercy.”
For many volunteers, the joy is in the giving.
“It certainly is its own reward,” said Alice Vogt, 95, of Festus, who has racked up nearly 10,000 volunteer hours – 400 total days during the past three decades. "I had no idea how many hours I’ve volunteered, but I know I enjoy every minute."
So much so that when Vogt’s family wants to double book her volunteer day, she gets a bit miffed about missing "work", said Cindy Fallert, volunteer services manager at Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Crystal City. Almost every Friday, Vogt can be found assisting intensive care unit visitors.
"Very often, people just need someone to talk to,” said Vogt, who worked in the hospital gift shop until her legs couldn’t take standing for such long periods. “I lend a good ear and try to provide comfort."
Mercy volunteers include teenagers who want experience in the medical field, middle-aged people looking to give back, seniors who want to stay active and people with disabilities learning job skills. Volunteers commit to as little as one hour a month and as much as 40 hours a week. There are a myriad of ways in which volunteers serve.
"Once there was a little boy whose grandpa was dying," Vogt said. "In the ICU they let children visit if the patient is dying. When he came back out, he was crying. I opened my arms, and he climbed into my lap and just sobbed while I held him."
Alice said she has been rewarded by the relationships she has made with visitors, hospital staff and other volunteers. She specifically mentioned Fallert and Chaplain Dennis Heck, the staff who cared for her as a patient on the second floor, and especially, the staff in the ICU, who arranged a surprise birthday party for her on her 95th birthday last fall.
Rosalie Dunker is the longest continuously serving volunteer at Mercy Hospital Jefferson with more than 40 years of experience. She works on Thursday in the operating room waiting area, escorting patients and taking paperwork back to the surgery area.
The Auxiliary has about 130 active volunteers who work in the gift shop, coffee shop, ICU, Emergency Department, and Information Desk at the front entrance. Volunteers also create flowers and crafts that are sold in the gift shop, and a crew keeps the hospital vending machines filled.
The volunteers in Crystal City logged more than 38,000 hours last year, and more willing hands are always welcome, Fallert said.
"We are in need of volunteers to work in the Mercy Gift Shop on Saturday evenings from 4 to 8, and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.," she said. "All of my volunteers are very important to me and are a essential part of this hospital."
To find out about opportunities to volunteer call Fallert at 636-933-1397, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.