When Joyce Feiertag started volunteering at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, Gerald Ford was president. She hasn’t stopped volunteering since.
“I started the day the hospital opened in 1974,” she said.
May marked the 60th anniversary of the Mercy Volunteer Auxiliary in Oklahoma City. The group was formed when the hospital was located downtown. Mercy moved to the current location in 1974.
Feiertag has volunteered in admitting for most of her 40 years with Mercy, and nearly everyone she has met during this time has been positive, despite being ill and at a hospital.
The people she has met and the desire to give back have kept her returning week after week. Talk to any volunteer and they’ll tell you the same thing.
What They Do
Volunteers’ duties go beyond giving directions and handing out newspapers, although they do both. They can be found in nearly every part of the hospital, escorting patients, greeting new arrivals and coming by with snacks. They knit caps for newborns and give children stuffed animals before surgery. Often, a smiling volunteer is the first and last person a patient sees during a hospital stay. Volunteers take care of one-quarter of patient discharges at Mercy.
Volunteers hold fundraising book fairs and jewelry sales, and they run the hospital’s gift shop. The money they raise goes toward grants to departments to meet pressing needs – roughly $30,000 a year. Mercy Oklahoma City’s 290 active Auxiliary members volunteered nearly 57,000 hours in 2014. This is equivalent to 27 full-time positions that would have to be filled if the Auxiliary didn’t exist.
“I don’t have to worry about them taking the day off or not coming in because they have something better to do,” said Pat Scheer, manager of Mercy Volunteer Services. “They’re committed -- and that’s inspiring.”
Through the Years
When the Auxiliary began in 1955, Mercy had only been open for eight years. The role of volunteers was much different then.
“They rolled bandages. They assisted nurses. They went into the rooms and helped with patient care. They made beds. They ironed sheets,” Scheer said.
Yet volunteers have always had an eye toward raising money for the hospital. They rented cots to patients’ family members. They even rented televisions. In the past, the Auxiliary purchased the first air conditioner for the Emergency Department and later contributed to the hospital’s first mobile mammography unit. They bought electrocardiogram machines and helped furnish a surgery suite. More recently, they helped buy the hospital’s first digital mammography machine.
The Auxiliary’s biggest projects have been of the bricks-and-mortar variety. They helped fund construction of a physician office tower and contributed $1 million toward the existing conference center and neonatal intensive care unit.
A ‘Service Heart’
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the passion for service that motivates volunteers.
“They have a service heart,” Scheer said. “They know service is important. They feel they have been given a lot and, to quote a saying, ‘Those who have been given much, much is expected.’ They want to give back.”
Jodie Lukeman has accumulated more than 17,500 hours volunteering at Mercy. She lost track of how long she has been here, but commendations on her blue jacket hint at her tenure.
“They gave me a 25-year pin, so I guess that long,” she said.
Lukeman started volunteering with Mercy when church friends suggested she join them. For years she escorted patients who were discharged from the hospital, until she couldn’t push wheelchairs. She now assists the marketing and communications department and knits caps for newborns.
“I’ve raised my children; I just feel it’s the thing to do to give back your time,” she said.