Eager to help
While many volunteers continue to stay safe at home, they remain within our hearts and have been greatly missed at St. Joseph’s. Nearly 1,000 volunteers play an integral part in the care experience of each patient, visitor, resident and staff.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, St. Joseph's Volunteer Services Program was temporarily placed on hold in March 2020. As vaccines circulate within our community and COVID-19 case numbers drop, our organization looks forward to welcoming back volunteers in a phased approach beginning September 2021. The safety of our volunteers, staff, physicians, residents, patients and caregivers remains our foremost priority.
Two St. Joseph’s volunteers share how they have coped during the pandemic and what volunteering still means to them. Here are their stories:
“I’m a people person,” says longtime volunteer Marilyn Smith. “I love being around people and I miss being around them.”
Marilyn began volunteering at St. Joseph’s 21 years ago when her husband was a resident in the Veterans Care Program at Parkwood Institute. Six months after he passed away, she started to volunteer her time in the General Store.
“It’s like a family,” recalls Marilyn. “You form friendships as you hear and share stories. A piece of my heart will always be at Parkwood Institute.”
Crafty by nature, she also lends her time and talents to the Veterans Arts Program, sewing up pillows hand-painted by the war heroes themselves. Once a week, Marilyn serves as one of the ‘Crafty Ladies’ who make ornaments and small holiday-themed gifts, which are then given to residents to enjoy. In addition, she also volunteers at St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation and Wound Management Clinic.
“It doesn’t matter how many hours you volunteer or what you do,” says Marilyn. “It’s the fact that you are doing it for others. The whole idea is being able to help people and put a smile on their faces. “
When the pandemic hit everything stopped, including St. Joseph’s Volunteer Services Program consisting of nearly 1,000 volunteers to ensure safety for individuals, residents and patients. Despite the lack of connection with others, Marilyn has found ways to cope, keep busy and give back.
“I think I am on my fourth afghan,” laughs Marilyn. “I have also sewn almost 800 cloth face masks for churches, local charities and people in need.
Now vaccinated, Marilynn spends her time in her garden and hopes to see more family and friends as the pandemic unfolds.
She knows that volunteering might look a little different when she returns to her volunteer role, but she is eager and willing to come back once it’s safe to do so.
“It’s the connection,” smiles Marilynn. “For me, it’s all about the people and I can’t wait to return.”
Laura Chaffey, one of St. Joseph’s longest-serving volunteers, is quick to respond when asked what she misses most about her volunteer duties.
“The hugs,” says Laura. “All the hugs. Boy, do I miss those.”
For 35 years, Laura has put her heart and soul into volunteering and the 92-year-old shows no signs of slowing down.
“It keeps me busy and gets me up in the morning,” says Laura. “I look forward to it and it gives me a sense of purpose.”
Many years ago, Laura began volunteering in the Palliative Care Unit at St. Joseph’s with her husband.
“I volunteered for about 12 years in the Palliative Care Unit. It was hard sometimes,” recalls Laura. “I visited with them, held their hands. It made me realize how lucky every moment in life is.”
Laura also lends her time visiting veterans at Parkwood Institute. She especially enjoys taking them for a drink at the Iron Duke Pub in the Western Counties Wing.
“We share so many stories and laughs,” says Laura. “We talk about where we grew up and other tales about our lives. There are so many kind people in this world and the veterans are just wonderful people.”
Through the pandemic has put a temporary pause on her volunteering, Laura feels blessed to have formed friendships with other volunteers at St. Joseph’s over the year.
“We look out for each other,” says Laura. “During the pandemic, they have sent me meals and we called each other on the phone to make sure we were okay. I can’t wait for us all to get together again.”
In the meantime, Laura keeps busy working in her garden, reading novels and sewing items for charities and churches. She looks forward to returning to her volunteer role.
Laura adds that she is also looking forward to seeing her great-grandkids again, who she hasn’t seen in over two years due to the pandemic. “My great-grandkids live in the United States," says Laura. "When see them again, I plan on giving them the biggest hug they have ever had,” laughs Laura.
Would you like to volunteer with us once it's safe to do so?
If you are interested in volunteering with St. Joseph’s, please complete a Volunteer Application.