For The Tribune
This past week was all about volunteers.
Not only was it National Volunteer Week, but it also was National Healthcare Volunteer Week.
Schneck Medical Center in Seymour heavily relies on people giving of their time to do a variety of tasks.
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That includes helping in the emergency room and preoperational and postoperational surgery rooms, driving the courtesy shuttle, transporting patients, taking them to their vehicle after being discharged, picking up mail, taking lab specimens to the laboratory, checking in on patients to see if they need anything and working in the gift shop.
In 2017, more than 100 people combined to volunteer 18,275.25 hours, said Amy Cockerham, who has been manager of volunteer services for five of her 14 years at Schneck.
The hospital has had a volunteer program for 59 years, so 2019 will mark the 60th anniversary, Cockerham said.
“I feel like the staff would probably be overworked and overexhausted because of the relief they are able to provide,” Cockerham said of the 119 active volunteers currently serving.
“I feel like the environment wouldn’t be as friendly or as welcoming just because it’s a positive feeling just to know that these people are here giving of their time basically for the patients,” she said. “They are a blessing here, and then for the community, as well.”
Serving as a volunteer also has impacted their lives, she said.
“I have had several come into my office that their spouse just passed away, and they can’t sit down with me for an hour going through the orientation process without crying about it,” Cockerham said. “I look at them a year later, and it’s like they are completely in a different place. They’ve met new friends that are fellow volunteers, and it has forced them to get out and do something every week, so it has helped them heal, as well.”
There is a process to becoming a volunteer at the hospital.
“We have a lot of regulations here,” Cockerham said. “We have to make sure that we go over all of the safety information. They have to sign a confidentiality form. I do a background check. They have to prove that they are immune to certain things. They have to get a tuberculosis test.”
Volunteers have to be at least 18 years old and are asked to work at least a four-hour shift per week.
“We try to accommodate between their schedule and what they have interests in and the need,” Cockerham said. “Departments rely on them if they are going to be here.”
Wilma Campbell of Seymour has been a volunteer at the hospital for 38 years, accumulating more than 7,500 hours.
“My youngest son was a senior in high school, and I just wanted to do something to get out of the house. I enjoyed it so much I just stayed with it,” she said.
Most of the volunteers are members of the Schneck Guild. Dues are $5 per year, and they are invited to a volunteer awards luncheon in the fall.
Each year, through lobby fundraisers and the gift shop, more than $100,000 is given back to the hospital. The gift shop is fully staffed by volunteers except for a coordinator that is paid.
Gift shop sales is the largest fundraiser, Cockerham said.
Judy Peters of Brownstown has been a volunteer for eight years. She also serves as president of the Schneck Guild board.
She has accumulated more than 2,000 volunteer hours and now spends a lot of time working in the gift shop.
Peters said her sister retired from the hospital, and she had a friend who volunteered there.
“I came to a meeting with her once, a meet-and-greet thing,” she said. “I had been retired for a year or two and thought I needed to do something.”
She said volunteers have to be trained just like the employees.
“It isn’t just coming in here and looking pretty. If that was a requirement, I couldn’t come,” Peters said, smiling. “They do expect the volunteers to come up to their standards, which is great. It makes you feel good to be a part of it because this hospital does have a lot of good standards.”
The courtesy shuttle is the newest opportunity to volunteer. It was donated and purchased by the Schneck Guild in 2016.
“The shuttle has been huge during our construction because our parking is so much of a challenge,” Cockerham said of the $44 million project underway to add doctor’s offices and a parking garage to the front of the hospital.
The shuttle service is so popular that the hospital has placed an order for a second vehicle.
George Farmer of Crothersville has been volunteering for three years, including nearly a year and a half driving the courtesy shuttle. Before that, he did volunteer work inside the hospital.
He volunteers to drive the shuttle about eight hours a week and said his favorite part of the job is meeting people.
“When I was inside, my goal was to make everybody smile before they left. I worked on that pretty good,” Farmer said, smiling.
He said volunteering has been a big help to him.
“My wife had passed away about four years ago, and I just needed something to get me going and get out of the house, and it worked great,” Farmer said.
Teens ages 14 to 18 also can apply for the junior volunteer program, which runs from the first week of June until school starts. They also work four hours a week and have to contribute at least 32 hours for the summer.
Cockerham said the hospital typically has 80 junior volunteers. Applications will be on online at schneckmed.org starting May 1. There will be a signup night May 23, followed by four hours of training the following week before they start volunteering.
Graduating seniors who serve as a junior volunteer also could receive one of three scholarships the hospital awards.
Each year, Cockerham said her goal is to increase the number of volunteer hours. That includes reaching 20,000 hours this year to lead into next year’s 60th anniversary.
While Campbell said she’s not sure how much longer she will volunteer, Peters and Farmer both said they plan to continue as long as they can.
“I just come and do what I can right now. I can’t do a lot, but I’ve enjoyed it all of the time I’ve been doing it. I’ve met a lot of nice people. I feel like I’m doing a little something for the community,” Campbell said.
“We have a lot of customers anymore that aren’t just employees. Our gift shop has become pretty popular,” Peters said.
“You get to meet a lot of people, and you get to help a lot of people,” Farmer said. “If anybody wants to come and volunteer, I think it’s a good place to do it. The hospital is growing, so they are going to need some more volunteers.”
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For information on volunteering at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, call 812-522-0439 or visit schneckmed.org and click on “Volunteer.”