National Volunteer Week begins April 18 and perfect times to recognize the important role volunteers have at Shore Medical Center. The hospital is home to great physicians, nurses and staff but as a community hospital, Shore Medical Center is also blessed to have community members give so willingly of their time to volunteer. They are grandparents, teachers, librarians, office workers, and former employees. They welcome visitors, dispense information, man the Gift Shop, talk with patients, give directions, are the work force at both Shore Thrift Shops and earlier this year stepped up to help when Shore staff members were receiving their Covid-19 vaccines.
Lisa DiTroia, Director of the Shore Auxiliary and Volunteer Services works with the volunteers every day and said she is always amazed at how generous volunteers are of their time and their talent to lend a hand at the hospital. "Our volunteers are wonderful. We were so happy to be able to have so many of them return as things begin to open up. We certainly missed them when the pandemic kept them home and I know our patients missed them as well.”
Lori English is the manager of the Shore Auxiliary Thrift Shops in Somers Point and Marmora. She had nothing but high praise and positive words for the volunteers who returned in July when the shops were able to reopen after being closed for months due to the pandemic. "The volunteers are our workforce. Without them, we absolutely could not do it, we could not run our Thrift Shop," said English.
Thrift Shop volunteer, Barbara Hartling of Egg Harbor Township is busy arranging earrings and necklaces behind the counter at the Somers Point shop. A former TV news reporter and now a six-year volunteer in the shop Hartling said she enjoys her role as a volunteer. "I enjoy seeing people and helping them accessorize. They will find a dress and then I can help them find something pretty to go with it. I just love to find something that matches," said Hartling who added that she takes a great deal of pride in her work.
Mary Ellen Weathers (pictured above), also of Egg Harbor Township is another volunteer in the Thrift Shop. Twice a week Weathers is helping customers and enjoying being a part of the team. Retired from Verizon, Weathers said she wanted to something interesting two days a week and close to home. "I always enjoyed shopping so working in the Thrift Shop is a bit like a replacement. I enjoy helping set up displays and helping customers," added Weathers. "Everyone is really so nice to work with."
Volunteers also meet new friends at the hospital. Dot Aitken of Ocean City was an x ray technician and later in her career, a speech pathologist. "I have always worked with people. I really enjoy it. My husband and I moved here from Vermont and did not know anyone. I did not want to work a full-time job but I look forward to having a schedule and meeting new people and I thoroughly enjoy being here in the Gift Shop one day a week. It is fun working at Shore and I have met many good friends."
Many of the volunteers at the hospital are former Shore employees who want to give something back to the hospital where they spent so many years working. Stephanie Carracillo of Somers Point was a medical records supervisor at Shore for 30 years. "When I retired, I wanted to give something back to the hospital so I started volunteering and I love it. Sometimes people come in and they are a little anxious, I hope when I talk with them I can distract them somewhat and make them feel a little more comfortable about being at the hospital.”
Barbara Deaney of Ocean City spent a decade working with the Shore Medical Center Health Foundation and she now volunteers as a patient-family liaison. Pre-pandemic, Deaney would visit patients, now she is reaching out to patients via the phone. “Patients can be frightened or lonely and we want them to know that we care about them as patients of course but also as people. I ask them, ‘How are you feeling today?’ It is not always easy but it is always purposeful when I am able to talk with a patient.” Deaney said she was inspired by the generosity of the community and wanted to give something back.
When the Covid-19 vaccine became available in December for staff, John Gosner, Cardiology Vascular/Radiology Manager was tasked with helping to set up for vaccinations and that meant finding the manpower to run the clinic. Reaching out to former employees to see if they might assist resulted in many retired nurses and pharmacists like Ted Sheppard, a former Director of the SMC Pharmacy who did not hesitate to step forward to help. “I volunteered for the clinic to help in the fight against the Covid-19 virus. I feel that it is important to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible in order to end this pandemic that has taken so many lives and devastated our economy. It was a great opportunity to give a little bit back,” said Sheppard. “It was enjoyable to be working on a great cause, to meet new staff, and to again see many of my former co-workers.”
Gosner said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has and still continues to be a menace in our lives. However there are many bright spots that deserve to be recognized during this difficult time starting with our volunteers. They contributed countless hours of their time and took risks to help us vaccinate the staff and community against this horrible virus. We appreciate all of their hard work and their courageous efforts to help us.”
In a normal year, DiTroia would be working on a proper thank you for each of her more than 325 volunteers, many of whom would be honored for more than 25 years of service. But this year has been anything but normal and the number of active volunteers is greatly reduced due to pandemic restrictions. “While not many of our volunteers are able to be with us,” DiTroia said, “I never want to forget the wonderful work, service and dedication our volunteers have given to this hospital year after year.”