May 31, 2006

Volunteers Give And Get Back

They want you. "We have a huge need for volunteers," said Gerry Minerva, the Director of Volunteer Services at Southampton Hospital.

While the traditional image of the volunteer may be of the candy striper pushing her cart through the hospital halls, Minerva said that there are a wide variety of opportunities available for potential volunteers. The hospital is seeking to increase its volunteer force from 89 to 120 members, and positions run the gamut from staff assistance in the Radiology Department to workers in the hospital thrift shop to executive assistants in the President's office. "All of the offices need help," Minerva said.

"There are so many different areas and your time is flexible," said Tony Meyers, a resident of Southampton who has been volunteering at the hospital for 15 years. "You can work seven days a week or one day a month."

Minerva said that volunteers generally work for four hours a week, and the hospital adapts to each person's schedule. "Their donation of time is so valuable, so whatever works for them will work for us," she said.

Whether the volunteer will be working in the patient care, the Breast Center, or the main lobby, all take part in a hospital orientation. After that, they are trained in the section where they will be volunteering. "They'll become part of that family," Minerva explained.

Betty Schmutz of Noyac has been volunteering at the hospital for 20 years and currently works in the surgery center waiting room. "I enjoy doing it," she said. "We all have to give back something when we can."

Marian Dispigna, who goes to the hospital once a week with her sister, Joan O'Brien, to bring a coffee cart full of snacks and refreshments to the patients, said she enjoys the social interaction with the patients and staff. "It's great. I feel good about it and the people love it," she said.

"Some of the patients say 'As soon as I get better I'm going to do this,'" she added.

Minerva said volunteers find their work to be very fulfilling. "They like the fact that they are supporting their community," she explained.

The hospital isn't the only local organization reliant on the work of volunteers. "We can always use more volunteers" at Meals on Wheels in East Hampton, said Gretchen Howe, the executive director.

The organization in East Hampton relies on 100 volunteers, each generally driving one route per week, to deliver meals to more than 50 homebound individuals.

"They really enjoy doing it. It's really very satisfying for them," Howe said.

Those who volunteer "like to give back," Minerva agreed. "That is definitely the number one reason they do it."

Call Gerry Minerva at 726-8336 or visit southamptonhospital.org/careers for more information about volunteering at the hospital. Call Gretchen Howe or Joan Wyckoff at 329-1699 for more information about positions at Meals on Wheels.

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