During the week of April 15-21, New Hanover Regional Medical Center will join the rest of the United States in celebrating National Volunteer Week.
President Richard Nixon’s executive order started the tradition in 1974, and since then every President has signed a proclamation thanking one of America's most valuable assets – our volunteers – and calling the public's attention to all they do to improve our communities.
At New Hanover Regional Medical Center, more than 700 volunteers gave 124,157 hours in 2006. According to the Independent Sector, the value of a volunteer hour is $18.04, so the value of those hours to NHRMC was more than $2.2 million.
But rather than look at the statistical impact, the personal touch that each volunteer brings tells the real story.
Annie Jacobs volunteers every Friday morning in NHRMC’s Surgical Waiting Room. She made the decision to volunteer several years ago, promising to donate her time after a hospital volunteer showed special kindness to her family during a loved one’s illness..
“I said, ‘God, if you bless me to retire, volunteer is what I’m going to do,’” Jacobs said, describing her position in surgical waiting as being on the “front lines of customer service.”
“It’s a very busy place full of lots of things happening, but the work is very rewarding,” she said.
Wilhelmena Rogers, who works alongside Jacobs in the surgical waiting room, said her decision to volunteer at NHRMC was mainly social.
"It gets you out of the house," said the retiree with more than 5,000 volunteer hours spanning two decades. "And you get to meet a lot of nice people."
Whether it’s helping answer questions or keeping track of families waiting on word about loved ones, both women listed compassion as the top job prerequisite, followed closely by solid sleuthing skills.
"The key thing is to find out what they need," Jacobs said, emphasizing family members often arrive in a state of shock.
In the main lobby of NHRMC, visitors may meet Ralph Waddell, a volunteer greeter. He walks patients and visitors to their destination, decreasing anxiety for people who can easily get lost in a big medical center.
Waddell, who retired after 24 years in the Army and many more in the private sector, said he courted several different volunteer organizations, but none satisfied him.
"I didn't see (in these organizations) many opportunities to meet new people," he said. "Working here at the hospital I'm constantly meeting new people."
The job's immediate and positive feedback is what reinforced Waddell from the get-go.
"From day one you feel like you're doing something to help people," he said.
His duties - from front desk to weekends at NHRMC’s Hospitality House - keep him hopping during his four-hour shifts.
All the volunteers at Cape Fear Hospital, New Hanover Regional, the Zimmer Cancer Center, Medical Mall, Oleander Rehab, Hospitality House, Coastal Rehab and The Oaks are appreciated. They bring a warm greeting when visitors arrive and a special smile and wave when a patient and their family leaves for home. While statistics and numbers relate part of the story, the individual acts of kindness are what make volunteers at NHRMC special every week of the year. If you are interested in volunteering for any of the services of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, please call 815.5317