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Volunteers Make a Difference at Washington Hospital

December 25, 2012

Service League Members Provide Much-Needed Support for Patients and Staff

"Volunteers are typically the first people to greet patients, families, and visitors when they arrive at Washington Hospital," said Denise Stones, assistant director of Volunteer Services at Washington Hospital. "Volunteers are the eyes people look into when they're frightened, anxious, lonely, or frustrated; when they are on their way to surgery, tests, or procedures that could affect their destinies."

That's because volunteers staff the lobby desk at the main hospital and at Washington West. They greet patients and visitors, help discharge patients, wheeling them out to the curb where they can be picked up by friends or family, and make deliveries throughout the hospital.

Volunteers provide emotional support to patients and their loved ones in the emergency room and those in the critical care unit. They also serve as surgery liaisons, keeping patients' family and friends updated during a surgical procedure.

"They make sure patients and their families are getting what they need, whether that's ice or a blanket, or just comfort," Stones said. "Patients and their loved ones are often under a lot of stress, so just being there with them can be very comforting."

Another way volunteers help to comfort patients and visitors is through music. They play soothing music on a donated baby grand piano located in the hospital lobby.

"We get a lot of compliments about the music," Stones added. "Soft, soothing music can be very calming."

Volunteers also work in the gift shop and library, and take photos of newborn babies. They feed patients who are unable to feed themselves and cuddle babies.

Special Projects

In addition to their regular assignments, volunteers also support a number of special projects like lectures, seminars, and health screenings as well as community events such as Think Pink.

"Before anyone can volunteer at the hospital, they receive extensive training depending on where they are assigned," Stones explained. "The jobs they do contribute to the quality care we provide at Washington Hospital, so it's important that they receive the proper training."

With nearly 600 volunteers, the Service League donates about 50,000 volunteer hours to Washington Hospital every year. Since it was started in 1955, the Service League has provided more than 1.85 million hours of service and donated more than $2.2 million to the hospital. In addition to the hours members give, the Service League raises money to help fund equipment and other projects for Washington Hospital.

Back when the Service League was formed, the goal was to support Washington Township's new hospital by purchasing much-needed equipment and to offer assistance to patients, visitors, and staff. Now 57 years later, the organization continues to provide that comforting touch and helpful hands to the staff as Washington Hospital continues to grow, while opening doors for those who volunteer.

"Volunteering has helped me make social connections," said Sharon Stagg, president of the Service League. "Since retiring from working fulltime, volunteering also gives me a sense of community. It feels good to give back to my hometown by helping me feel that in some small way, I am giving back to a community that has supported me all my life."

With such a wide range of volunteer opportunities available at Washington Hospital, there is something for everyone, Stones added. There are even opportunities for high school and college students.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Washington Hospital must be at least 16 years old and attend an information session, held each month. For more information about volunteer opportunities and dates and times for upcoming information sessions, visit www.whhs.com/volunteer/be-a-volunteer or call (510) 791-3465.

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