By Mercy's Bethany Pope
MIDWEST, U.S. – 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, 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.” Almost every Friday, Vogt can be found assisting intensive care unit visitors at Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Crystal City, Mo.
"Very often, people just need someone to talk to,” said Vogt, who worked in the 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.
Odessa Johnson, 47, and her family moved to Independence, Kan., from Summerville, S.C., in 2011 when her husband took a job at the nearby Amazon.com distribution center. New to town and with two young children in school, Johnson was looking for a volunteer outlet. Someone at church suggested Mercy Hospital and she signed up, initially volunteering a few hours a week.
Today, Johnson serves as auxiliary president, tripling her weekly volunteer hours. “I love helping other people and getting to know them,” she said. “I’ve been in Independence less than two years, and I already know more people than I did in my hometown.”
As president, Johnson is responsible for overseeing all auxiliary activities. A big job, considering the corps of 125-plus active volunteers do everything from operating the hospital’s snack bar and gift shop to delivering departmental mail, providing courtesy patient transportation and registering patients in the children’s immunization clinic.
Perhaps her primary role, though, is cheerleader for her fellow volunteers. On Tuesdays, she checks in on the volunteer crafters at work in the hospital creating homemade treasures for the fall bazaar, and on Thursdays she pops in at the cancer center to check on those readying patients for their visits with the oncologist.
“My job is making sure all the volunteers know we appreciate them,” Johnson said. “I try to let everyone know we value what they do. We have a good group of people here who do a lot of great things.”
To volunteer, call the nearest Mercy Hospital in your community.
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 32 hospitals, 300 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,900 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.