Mountain View, CA - April 4, 2011 - As El Camino Hospital nears its 50th anniversary, another important milestone was reached late last week: the hospital Auxiliary clocked 5 million hours of volunteer service. And that doesn't even count the thousands of hours donated at the hospital's Los Gatos campus, where the Auxiliary records haven't yet been fully integrated.
One volunteer, Mountain View resident Virginia Downs, has put in 10,638 hours in the 45-plus years she has been volunteering at the hospital--the longest of anyone, according to Auxiliary records. If you apply a 2008 Independent Sector estimated value of $23.29 per hour, she and her fellow volunteers have contributed an astonishing total of more than $116 million worth of time.
"It's stunning," said Ken Graham, El Camino Hospital CEO. "The thousands of volunteers who collectively have put in more than 570 years of unpaid work for us are our unsung heroes. There isn't a department they haven't touched and made better by their presence."
Currently numbering more than 1,400 at the two hospital campuses, El Camino Hospital volunteers serve in a myriad of ways, from fundraising projects to in-hospital services. They provide patients with spiritual support, families with comfort and grief counseling, hospital visitors with directions; they help staff the Health Library and Resource Center, provide transportation for seniors and disabled members of the community and provide nonmedical services in departments ranging from Behavioral Health and Maternity to Emergency and Surgery; they make handicrafts as gifts for babies and other patients and provide a cheerful, human touch to thousands of patients when they need it the most.
Organized in 1957 and incorporated in 1958, the El Camino Hospital Auxiliary includes both adults and teens (14 to 18), all of whom go through a formal application and screening process including an interview. Despite a minimum 12-month, 100-hour commitment for Juniors, the program often has a waiting list. Adults must make a six-month, 12 hours-a-month commitment to the program. Volunteers comprise an extraordinary and eclectic mix--much like the communities the hospital serves. Palo Alto resident Chuck Hebel, 80, spends three days a week volunteering at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. The former physicist and research and development manager for Xerox, Inc. applied to the Auxiliary after his wife passed away, at the suggestion of his son. In the past six years, he has served in the critical role of patient relations representative for the Emergency Department, getting patients what they need to be comfortable--a blanket, glass of water, or just listening ear.
"Sometimes just talking is what the patient needs the most," says Chuck, who explains that patients often arrive alone. For example, an elderly woman came in after a bad fall, he says. "She was terribly frightened by the bright lights, the x-ray machine and all of the commotion around her. I got her a blanket and we just talked. Before I knew it, she had fallen fast asleep."
His less visible but equally important role grew out of Chuck's ease with computer databases, which has made him an invaluable addition to the Auxiliary team. He serves as director of senior membership, helping manage and update the database of volunteers for both Mountain View and Los Gatos.
Los Gatos resident Jan Gleason began working at the hospital in Los Gatos eight years ago. Now in her late 60s, she taught elementary school students for 32 years. She missed interacting with the public so, after working in the maternity unit, Jan gravitated to the Information Desk where she enjoys being the "face of the hospital," warmly greeting visitors and giving them directions. Jan recently added to her responsibilities, becoming the Assistant Director of Services. She interviews all new volunteers and helps find them a suitable assignment. She's proud of the fact that the Auxiliary often finds roles for disabled volunteers--and that it gives a sense of purpose and connection to many younger members who are currently unemployed but want to give something to their community.
"There is also a wonderful sense of connection that volunteers feel--no matter what your background is, we can usually find something for you."