ST. LOUIS – 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.”
At Mercy Hospital St. Louis, more than 900 volunteers contributed over 95,000 hours in service. For many volunteers, the joy is in the giving.
“I enjoy being around people and it’s rewarding to me” said Ron Hollon, 70, who has volunteered for nine years at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. After retiring five years ago, Hollon increased his hours from five hours each week to between 15 and 20 hours, racking up 4,500 hours over the years. He can be found at the hospital in a variety of areas including his favorite - the neonatal intensive care unit where he serves as a Cuddler.
Growing up while other kids his age had paper routes to make money, Hollon chose to babysit. Now the grandfather of two – soon to be three – he said, “I’ve always loved being around babies. For premature babies, we just hold them, maybe talk a little and let them hear a heartbeat. Parents are very grateful to have someone provide the human touch when they can’t be with their baby.”
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.
Heidi Mangan, 19, a junior at Parkway Central High School with Asperger's syndrome, has been volunteering at the hospital for three years. She was one of the first in a unique Supported Volunteer Program tailored to providing coaching support for volunteers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Initially volunteering two days a week working in the bakery, gift ship and Skilled Nursing Center, Mangan’s volunteer job has been incorporated into her school curriculum and she is able to leave school to volunteer and learn job skills.
“When Heidi started volunteering she was very unsure of herself, wasn’t able to recognize the next step of a task, or independently navigate the hospital. Now Heidi doesn’t have to think as hard about the task she is completing but can enjoy what it feels like to work independently and give back to the community,” said Kim Uhlmansiek, coordinator of Supported Volunteers at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.
In its third year, there are currently 45 individuals with developmental disabilities who volunteer in areas across the St. Louis hospital, including patient care, clerical and ancillary roles. The program is specifically for people who have a developmental disability diagnosed prior to the age of 22, are at least 17 years of age, and live in St. Louis County. Volunteers in the Supported Program are provided educational service opportunities, social interaction with peers and the chance to become a part of their community in a compassionate and welcoming environment. The goal of the program is to help prepare people with disabilities for gainful employment, by providing strong job and life skills.
For more information about volunteer opportunities at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, please call Volunteer Services at 314-251-6180.
Mercy Hospital St. Louis, part of Mercy’s east Missouri region, is a 979-bed comprehensive teaching hospital. The 80-acre site houses a nine-level heart and vascular hospital, a cancer center; a comprehensive children's hospital; a surgery center; and a 120-bed skilled nursing center.
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. In Mercy’s east Missouri region, services include a 979-bed hospital in St. Louis, 187-bed hospital in Washington, 251-bed hospital in Crystal City and Mercy Clinic, a 570-member multispecialty physician organization.