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April 21, 2010 > What It Means to Be a Volunteer

What It Means to Be a Volunteer

National Volunteer Week Celebrates Those Who Give Back to Their Community

Chances are good that you know a volunteer. Maybe a neighbor, friend or family member. Or maybe you volunteer yourself. The reasons for volunteering vary as widely as the people who give their time. One person might have a family member who benefited from the compassion of hospice care volunteers. Another might enjoy meeting likeminded people in the community.

Whatever their reason for volunteering, volunteers all have one thing in common, according to Volunteer Services Director Anna Elola: they all share a dedication to giving back to their community.

During National Volunteer Week, April 18-24, Washington Hospital Healthcare System is celebrating the diverse group of individuals who help make their hospital and the community a better place.

Andy Estevez, President of Washington Hospital's long-running volunteer organization known as the Service League, says he knows what it's like to reap the benefits of having access to a strong community hospital. In fact, that's why he chose to become a volunteer.

"Before I started volunteering, I had many admissions at Washington Hospital, including two open heart surgeries, and during all those times I was able to speak to many volunteers," Estevez says. "I talked myself into becoming a volunteer as soon as I was forced to retire because of my heart condition at that time.

"Since then, I have worked in the Lobby, Emergency Room and Surgery Waiting Room and I have enjoyed every minute that I spend volunteering. When it's time to go home, I always feel very good about being able to help someone."

Estevez and his fellow board members, Maria Teresa Artuz, 1st Vice President; Dian Zarzycki, 2nd Vice President; Marita Singh, Secretary; Jeannie Yee, Parliamentarian; and Jose Aguirre Jr., Treasurer, represent a handful of the 650 adult, college and high school-age volunteers who perform a host of duties to help the hospital run smoothly.

Each of the board members has their own reasons for volunteering, but they all ended up in the same place.

"I consider myself a people person and it gives me a good feeling to help people, which is a form of giving back to the community," Artuz says.

Zarzycki fell into volunteering another way.

She became a member of the Washington Hospital Service League in 2002 after attending an information session with her daughter who needed service hours to graduate from high school. Zarzycki's daughter didn't end up joining the Service League - but Zarzycki did, and she's never looked back. Since then, she has spent the past eight years volunteering in the Community Health Resource Library, with one year as secretary of the service league, and two years on the nominating committee.

"I like to lend a helping hand, and it has been fun to get to know so many wonderful people!" she says.

Singh always knew deep down that volunteering was for her.

"Volunteering is a wonderful way to get to know people, help people and repay the community where we live," Singh says. "I've wanted all my life to become a volunteer."

Yee's volunteering days started in her early teens, first as a Red Cross volunteer in a convalescent hospital and then as a candy striper at her local hospital in San Jose. In 2003, like Zarzycki, she accompanied her daughter to a volunteer information session at Washington Hospital and could hardly wait for the end of the meeting to sign up as a volunteer.

Newborn Photography and cuddling the Special Care Nursery babies are Yee's passion, but she also finds great satisfaction helping on the W.O.W. (Washington On Wheels) Mobile Health Clinic once a month. She says it's the relationships she's built with fellow volunteers, as well as hospital staff, plus the joys of serving in the community, that keep her coming back for more.

Jose Aguirre Jr. became a member of the Washington Hospital Service League in 2007 after his own experience as a patient in a hospital. It also didn't hurt that he had a good lead on volunteer opportunities from his wife, who is a long-time night-nurse in Washington Hospital's Intensive Care/Critical Care Unit.

"I love meeting new people and because I've had a knee replacement, I can relate to the CJR patients and tell them what I felt," he says. "I can tell them truthfully, it can only get better."

An avid photographer, Aguirre looks forward to branching out into the Service League's Newborn Photography service as well.

In addition to the Service League's volunteers, Washington Hospital also benefits from the dedication of a number of other vital volunteers, including:
* Officers of the Washington Hospital Employees' Association (WHEA), who spearhead community projects to help local nonprofit organizations.
* Hospice Volunteers, who provide a special give of time providing support and relief to caregivers of terminally ill patients by helping with tasks, visiting and making phone calls.
* Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation Volunteers, who provide support to during the foundation's many charitable events.
* The Mended Hearts Board, which organizes educational meetings, lunches and social events for people in the community and the Mended Heart Volunteer Visitors who have had heart surgery and choose to volunteer their time visiting current heart surgery patients and their family members in the hospital.
* Hospital Chaplains, spiritual care volunteers who provide spiritual counseling and comfort to patients and family members in the hospital.

"At Washington Hospital, we honor all of these people during National Volunteer Week," Elola says. "The hospital and the staff appreciate the volunteers and show their appreciation everyday in many ways and especially during National Volunteer Week.

There are many different types of volunteer opportunities available through the Service League, and to make it even easier to volunteer, the hospital has implemented a "Random Staffing" program, which enables trained volunteers to go online and choose a time and day that is convenient for them to donate their time
To find out more, call the Volunteer Services Department at (510) 791-3465 or visit

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers with Washington Hospital's Service League have a number of exciting volunteer opportunities throughout the hospital, including:

* 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 - Provide emotional support to patients and their families in the emergency room.
* Community Health Resource Library - Assist visitors in finding answers to their health-related questions.
Service League volunteers also:
* Greet patients and visitors
* Discharge patients
* Deliver flowers
* Sell items in the gift shop
* Keep concerned friends and families updated on patient status
* Assist at the Radiology Oncology Center
* Play piano in main hospital lobby
* Make puppets for children
* Take families on tours of the hospital's Birthing Center
* Act as coaches for patients in Center for Joint Replacement
* Assist at public lectures and health screenings.

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