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National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers. These community members lend their time, talent, support and empathy to causes they care about and inspire others to take action, and realize they can make an impact on others as well.

This is certainly the case for the members of The Auxiliary of Lakeridge Health Oshawa and the Lakeridge Health Whitby Volunteer Services. These two organizations not only raise much needed funds for their dedicated Hospitals, but they also take the time to see that each patient and visitor has a pleasant experience while there.

Unfortunately, volunteers were not present at the Hospitals throughout the pandemic due to provincial restrictions. While these rules are easing, patients and staff are not the only ones glad to see them back.

“Our volunteers have been chomping at the bit, waiting for their turn to come back,” says Marion Saunders, President of the Auxiliary of Lakeridge Health Oshawa, who has been volunteering at Lakeridge Health for over 23 years, including time on the Hospital’s Board of Trustees as the Chair.

“A lot of the volunteers missed being in the Hospital,  offering their time and expertise, and making life a little easier for staff, patients, families and screeners.”

The volunteers that are back at the Hospitals have adapted quite well, acting as a resource for the screeners at Lakeridge Health, a team who connect with every visitor upon their arrival at the Hospital during the pandemic. After patients and visitors are screened, the volunteers guide them to their destination without disrupting the flow of entry.

Acting as a guide is not the only thing volunteers do for patients and visitors. Sometimes they provide a voice of comfort.

“Many patients come to the hospital with anxieties to start with,” Marion explains. “Volunteers help relieve those anxieties and assist wherever they can. They get a real sense of accomplishment from helping others.”

Fern Love, who worked in health care and became a volunteer with Lakeridge Health Whitby Volunteer Services particularly in the Gift Shop after retiring, agrees that part of the job is lending an ear when needed.

“So many patients and family members feel comfortable enough to share their stories with us in the Gift Shop,” explains Fern.

She recalls one paraplegic patient who would often visit the Gift Shop area. The volunteers built a bond with the patient and even read to her by the big window while enjoying the sunshine.

“She wasn’t able to talk, but I learned what she wanted by how she was moving her eyes when I asked questions,” Fern recalls. “That’s how we learned to communicate.”

Experiences like these make volunteering so rewarding explains Eleanor Stevenson, a volunteer since 1970, including time as President in Whitby.

“My life is richer from being a part of the volunteer services at the hospital,” she says.

Eleanor started volunteering when the hospital in Whitby first opened. She helped in the Gift Shop and with other activities organized by the Auxiliary.

“When Sharon Robinson was president, she organized the handing out of teddy bears to the patients,” remembers Eleanor. “It was so lovely to see the people cuddling the bears.”

Those interactions with patients helped Eleanor make the decision to volunteer in other areas of the hospital. And not just in Whitby, but Oshawa as well.

“I ended up volunteering in Oshawa, in the Dialysis Unit,” says Eleanor. “Dialysis is very patient oriented. You build strong relationships with those patients and look forward to visiting with them regularly.”

“It’s the little things,” affirms Marion, “that make the biggest difference for people. Whether it’s assisting someone lost in the hallway or our volunteers posted in the kiosk helping people find their favourite treat.”

The volunteers at our Hospitals do so much for those that come through the doors and National Volunteer Week is just one opportunity to recognize them.

“We don’t do it for the kudos,” says Fern. “We do it to make a difference.”