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December 24, 2008 > Volunteer Work Fulfills a "Real Need"

Volunteer Work Fulfills a "Real Need"

Hospital Employee Gives Back to the Causes Close to Her Heart

For Cathy Barry, the volunteer work she does fills a very personal need in her life.

"I've been doing volunteer work all my life," Barry says. "I was a candy striper in high school. I've worked as a volunteer guide giving tours in Golden Gate Park. I've volunteered in local museums. For the past four years I've been volunteering for Pathways Hospice. I've also been a volunteer with Bras for Body & Soul (a specialty bra shop located on the Washington Hospital campus that focuses on breast cancer survivors). I've done a little bit of everything."

For several years, Barry has also been an avid supporter of the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation's annual walk and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

"I'm kind of a gung-ho volunteer," Barry admits, adding that her husband teases her about her tireless volunteer efforts. "Next year I'm going to work on a community outreach program with the HERS Foundation."

Barry, who has worked at Washington Hospital as the employment coordinator in the Human Resources Department for almost 20 years, says that breast cancer has always been a very personal cause for her.

"I lost my mother when I was 18 to breast cancer," she says. "My biggest dream has been to start a support group for teenage girls who lost their moms, and I've been making some headway."

On her way to her goal, Barry says she's had some wonderful experiences and met some extraordinary people. She remembers one moment in particular.

"When I crewed the Avon walk a few years ago, we had these ribbons that said 'Every three minutes,'" Barry says. "They gave us a handful at the beginning of the walk, and there was a woman who came by and she had a pin with her mother's picture. I gave her my ribbon as she passed, and she came over at the end of the walk and said 'Giving me that ribbon got me across the finish line.'"

When asked where she finds the time and energy for all of her volunteering efforts, Barry says the act of volunteering gives her more hope and energy than she would otherwise have.

"Now that my kids are older, I have even more time to do things that are worthwhile," she says. "Volunteering just makes me feel like I'm doing something positive; it makes me feel better about myself. I love the breast cancer walks - I get such a sense of my mom's presence. Each walk I do is definitely for her. There's so much more support now (for the breast cancer cause) than there was 37 years ago."

Barry urges others in the community to reflect on their lives and find causes that are important to them. She says volunteering is so rewarding that she always feels as though she's getting back more than she gives.

"What I would tell other people who are thinking of volunteering is this: 'There's so much out there that you can do,'" she says. "There's a volunteer opportunity out there for everybody. Find something that's important to you. There's such a need. There are just so many things that need to be done that simply don't get done without volunteers. You get so much more back than you ever really give.

"It also gives you this real sense of peace and a sense of being part of something bigger. I go on the Internet all the time and look for other things to do. I get really excited when I find a quick little event I can be a part of."

Find your own way to give back

There are numerous volunteer opportunities at your local community hospital. This is a great time of year to find the right one for you.

Opportunities at Washington Hospital include:
* Baby Photos - Take baby photos for parents who are very happy to see baby's first picture.
* Patient Feeding - Assist staff with feeding patients who need social interaction, or whose medical condition makes it difficult to feed themselves.
* Emergency Room - Assist patients and their families entering and while in the emergency room for treatment.
* Community Health Resource Library - Assist visitors in finding answers to their health-related questions.

Other volunteer opportunities include:
* Acting as receptionist for the hospital
* Discharging patients
* Delivering flowers
* Selling items in the gift shop
* Helping families and patients in the Surgery Waiting Room and Intensive and Critical Care area
* Assisting at the Radiology Oncology Center
* Making puppets for children
* Taking families on tours of the birthing center
* Acting as coaches for patients in Center for Joint Replacement

To learn about the various types of volunteering at the hospital for adults, college students and high school students (must be 15 1/2 and have sophomore standing), call (510) 791-3465 or visit, select "Giving to WHHS," and select "Volunteer Opportunities."

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