Mercy’s Day of Service Benefits Communities, Honors Sister of Mercy

March 1, 2024

Mercy’s Day of Service pays tribute to Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, an icon in health care who relentlessly served and was known for her can-do spirit.

This year’s service week will be March 4-8 across every community Mercy serves in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The Day of Service was first established in 2023 in honor of Sister Roch, a Sister of Mercy and the first president and CEO of the Mercy system, who passed away in 2022. Sister Roch was known for her giving spirit, which goes hand-in-hand with volunteering.

Mercy doctor's coat Mercy co-workers will take part in a wide variety of volunteer activities for Mercy's Day of Service week, March 4-8.

“This is a beautiful way to honor the life of Sister Roch,” said Kevin Minder, Mercy’s senior vice president of mission and community health. “It reminds me to reflect on one of my favorite Sister Roch quotes: ‘We exist to serve.’”

Aundria Goree, Mercy’s executive director of community health, said Mercy’s community health leaders across the entire health care system worked to coordinate hundreds of opportunities for Mercy co-workers. 

In Fort Smith, Mercy volunteers will volunteer at Riverview Hope Campus, Next Step Homeless Services, Community Rescue Mission, GetREAL Children’s Shelter, Gateway Recovery House, Girl’s Shelter of Fort Smith and the River Valley Regional Food Bank.

In Northwest Arkansas, co-workers are participating in volunteer activities at the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, Dress for Success, Samaritan Center Snack Packs, Best Friends Pet Resource Center, Children and Family Advocacy Center, NWA Children’s Shelter and VOC Pantry Supply Room.

In addition, co-workers in Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas are taking part in food drives throughout the week.

“Our co-workers already serve our communities through their exceptional patient care, and they are eager to serve in other ways,” said Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Arkansas Communities. “Working side by side with local residents while volunteering is a great way to tap into that spirit of service while also making new connections in the community.” 

Mercy doctor's coat Many volunteer activities are available for Mercy co-workers to take part in throughout their local communities.

Father Paul Fetsko, vice president of mission for Mercy Arkansas Communities, added, "In Ireland, the Sisters of Mercy were known as the ‘Walking Sisters’ because they came out into the communities to care for the sick and the poor. Similarly, our Mercy co-workers are going out into the community and serving others through their volunteerism.”

Co-workers who volunteer during the year can utilize Mercy’s Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program. Established in 2022, the VTO program provides co-workers with time to volunteer during work hours at local nonprofits or community events and still get paid. In 2023, more than 2,300 co-workers took part in the VTO program, serving more than 13,500 volunteer hours.

“Service is in our Mercy DNA, and it’s a blessing to be able to live this core value inside and outside the walls of Mercy,” Minder said. “Sister Roch’s life is a legacy of service, and with 50,000 Mercy co-workers, we have the opportunity to make an impact in the communities where we live.”

Besides volunteerism being good for communities, it’s also good for overall health.

“Research has shown volunteering offers significant benefits for improving mental and physical health, provides a sense of purpose and helps with nurturing new and existing relationships,” Goree said.

The volunteer program is just one example of Mercy giving back to its communities. Mercy provided free care and other community benefits like this, along with traditional charity care and unreimbursed Medicaid, worth more than half a billion dollars to Mercy’s communities in fiscal year 2023.