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Giving back: True North for volunteers at Washington Hospital

For some of the Washington Hospital Service League volunteers, “giving back” means giving back to the Hospital itself because of their own prior experience as a patient at the Hospital. For others, “giving back” is a broader view of giving back to the community and they have chosen the Hospital as the vehicle for a variety of personal reasons.

To celebrate the volunteers of the Washington Hospital Service League and their invaluable contributions, a special 60th Anniversary luncheon will be held 12 noon – 2 p.m. (11 a.m. reception) on Tuesday, October 13, in the Tent at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont. All past and current Service League volunteers are encouraged to attend and to celebrate the Service League’s impressive accomplishments these past 60 years. Special guests will include former Service League presidents.

A volunteer for the past 12 years, Marina Fleming sold her telecommunications repair business and decided, now that she had some time, to see about volunteering at the Hospital. She had trained as a nurse in school and thought the Hospital would be a good match for her skills and volunteering interests.

A self-described “people-person,” Marina works in the Hospital gift shop several days a month. “We are the extra pair of hands and feet for the staff, doing the small jobs that have to be done,” she explains.

“Volunteers also can take the extra time to listen to patients or to concerned family members,” she said. “We can sit and listen and provide comfort and unlike Hospital staff members who have other patients and many responsibilities, we can spend as much time as needed with someone who might just want to talk about what’s worrying them.”

Cherie Gamardo, a 15-year volunteer, became involved after having had knee surgery at the Institute for Joint Replacement and Research on the Washington Hospital campus. “I had such a good experience with my knee replacement that I thought I should focus my volunteer interests with the Hospital.”

Cherie spends most of her volunteer hours in the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research helping patients with physical therapy. “We act as coaches for the patients, encouraging them with their exercises so they can go home.”

In addition to the specific benefits of volunteering, many volunteers have made new, close friends with other volunteers. “You meet other people who have the same interests and concerns that you have,” Cherie said. “They are there because they want to give back to the community and the Hospital, just as you do.”

Nancy Pagan, who has been a volunteer for 32 years, says she enjoys being of help to the staff and supporting the Hospital and her community — as well as interacting with the public that comes to the Hospital. She works at the welcome desk several days a month greeting visitors, providing directions and information, taking flowers and other gifts to patients and helping with patient discharges.

All three women have served on the Service League Board of Directors and all have served terms as Board President.

Additionally, each undertakes other activities on behalf of the Service League. Nancy also volunteers with the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation and with organizing the annual Gene Angelo Pessagno Memorial Golf Tournament, which raises significant funds for Hospital programs and needed equipment.

Cherie works with fellow volunteers to prepare commemorative birth certificates and make the “Magic Hankie and Pinkie Puppets,” felt hand puppets given to each newborn as the family leaves the Hospital. She also volunteers for a pilot program to assist patients in the medical imaging department.

And Marina has volunteered in the emergency department and with the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation. She is also involved in other Hospital activities not directly related to the Service League.

Reservations for the 60th Anniversary Luncheon may be obtained by contacting Washington Hospital Volunteer Services at 510.791.3465. Past presidents and current adult volunteers are invited to the 60th Anniversary Luncheon as guests of Washington Hospital. Past volunteers are invited to attend the luncheon for $10.

Additional information on how to become a Washington Hospital Service League volunteer may be obtained on the Washington Hospital website: or by calling 510.791.3465.