They are the ones who point the sick in the right direction. They help transport patients to their rooms. They sell balloons and teddy bears to welcome a new life or cheer up someone who’s received bad news.
While it may not seem like much, for those spending the holiday season there, the volunteers at Northside Hospital-Forsyth can mean a warm welcome during a cold time.
For Ro Woodhead, who’s volunteered at the hospital’s information desk for about five years, every day is a holiday.
“I make every day Christmas,” she said. “I want to make sure it’s like this any time … I think a lot of them are apprehensive coming into the hospital, so if they see a friendly face, it puts them at ease.”
Andrea Ciupak began volunteering five years ago. She’s currently the president of the hospital’s auxiliary, spending 15 hours a week ensuring the force of more than 300 volunteers meets all possible needs.
“There’s always room for more [volunteers],” she said. “Departments are always asking for help.”
For Bruce Wagar, volunteering was something he had always wanted to do. After his recent retirement from the Forsyth County school system, Wagar headed over to the hospital and signed up.
As the volunteer training director, he’s the first face new volunteers see.
“I’m the person that gets them processed in the beginning,” he said. “It’s a very unique volunteer program we have. It’s not just like you go in and work somewhere.
“You are actually assigned a department like the emergency room or the surgical waiting room … you really support the medical staff that’s there.”
Gloria Wyatt, director of volunteers and community outreach at the hospital, credited Wagar and all the volunteers for making Northside-Forsyth feel less like a hospital.
“We are so very blessed to have the number of volunteers that we have,” she said. “They are Christmas all year because they just truly give from their heart every day.”
Wyatt said some volunteers, including Wagar, will be at the hospital the week of Christmas.
“Tuesday, that’s my day,” Wagar said. “It really is strange, but it’s a wonderful feeling to go down there and have patients and employees of the hospital really appreciate what you do.
“It’s not for the money, it’s not for the glory, it’s because you were appreciated for what you do and what you’re doing for them.”
Ciupak said as many as 20 new volunteers sign up on a monthly basis. However, there’s more to it than just signing up.
Much like a paying job, volunteers need to submit an application, go through an interview process and a background check and provide references.
According to Ciupak, it takes about two months before an applicant makes it to volunteer orientation, held the third Wednesday of every month.
The reward is being part of a family that’s making a difference for patients and staff, said Jan Brandon, who has volunteered since 2007.
She’s one of the people who transports patients across the hospital, helps them to their rooms or delivers samples from doctors to the lab.
It’s how she has spent three afternoons a week for the past five years. Still, she wouldn’t trade the experience.
“My heart’s in it all year long. I know how these people need help and I’m just so willing to help them,” she said. “I love people, I love getting around and you get to see all parts of the hospital.
“People are sick when they come in here and they need help and I love to help them.”