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A study commissioned by the Corporation for National and Community Service has uncovered some surprising facts.
While previous research has suggested that U.S. residents volunteer less frequently during challenging economic times, the Corporation’s report found the opposite: the number of Americans volunteering in their communities in 2010 jumped by 1.6 million, the largest increase in six years. More than 63.4 million Americans volunteered through a formal organization last year, giving more than 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service—service with an estimated value of $169 billion.
An example of this robust volunteerism is alive and well locally at Frederick Memorial Hospital, where last year, according to the hospital’s director of volunteers, Sharon Hannaby, nearly 800 volunteers contributed well over 83,000 hours of service. “We have volunteers at the 7th Street campus and all of our off-site locations, helping with everything from direct patient care to clerical support,” says Hannaby. “I’d be hard-pressed to find one area of the healthcare system that is not assisted, directly or indirectly, by volunteers.”
Chartered on September 11, 1952, the Women’s Auxiliary of Frederick Memorial Hospital was originally founded to “support fund raising activities and promote good will.” Hospital archives show that service to Frederick Memorial began immediately, with the first volunteers helping out in the Record Room and quickly expanding to other departments. The volunteer organization’s first fundraiser, the inaugural Snow Ball, was held on December 22, 1952. The event raised $1,131.50, which was used to air-condition the operating room
By 1955, the FMH Auxiliary was the largest women’s organization in Frederick County. Candy Stripers, who are now known as Junior Volunteers, joined the organization’s ranks in 1967. When men joined the group in the early 1970s, and teenage boys began to volunteer in 1971, the name was officially changed to the Frederick Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.
Today, the FMH Auxiliary is an energetic corps of adults and students led by President Joann Ramsburg, among others, and there are dozens of services available to choose from.
Of the nearly 800 active volunteers, 171 take shifts at the hospital’s Information Desk in the main lobby. Among those are Shirley Brandt, Helen Plunkard and Virginia Tibbs, who work together every Tuesday, greeting and directing visitors, answering phones and transferring calls and delivering newspapers to patients by request. The trio says they love the constant contact with people, and feel that they share an important role in meeting and greeting the public on behalf of their community’s hospital.
Just down the main corridor, their fellow volunteer Jackie Owens assists the staff in the Surgical Services waiting area. A 15-year veteran of the FMH volunteer corps, Mrs. Owens finds being able to give the families whose loved ones are in surgery some confidence and reassurance. “I can help even more now that we have the Patient Tracking Board,” she says. “I can follow the patient’s progress through surgery and recovery, and help make sure his or her family knows to stay close by because the doctor will be out to talk with them soon. It’s extremely rewarding. I feel as if my time is being well spent.”
An intermittent volunteer for nearly 25 years, Jennifer Poling’s schedule has recently allowed her to return to her work as an FMH volunteer, this time in the Emergency Department. “I started volunteering here when I was a teenager,” says Ms. Poling. “Now that I’m in Nursing School, I thrive on being able to do what I can to make the staff’s jobs easier.”
Another popular volunteer area at FMH, says Auxiliary President Mrs. Ramsburg, is the Wings service. “This is our ‘escort and messenger’ service,” she says. “And as the hospital continues to grow, and the floor plan gets more complex, we need every one of those 122 Wings volunteers. They are a huge help.”
While some volunteer services save the hospital money indirectly, others contribute funds directly to FMH programs and services. The FMH Gift Shop is operated and staffed by volunteers, as is the Select Seconds thrift shop near the corner of North Market and West Patrick Streets in Downtown Frederick.
“Research shows that volunteering improves your health in many ways, and helps you feel connected to your community,” says Mrs. Ramsburg. “It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people.”
“We have many different opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds,” says Ms. Hannaby. “If you’re prepared commit at least six months of your time, we’d love to discuss your skills and interests and match them with a need. You’ll be helping others, and you’ll be helping yourself.”