Shortly after arriving to California in 1961 as the young bride of a doctor, Judy Van Dyck began volunteering at El Camino Hospital. Several doctors’ wives volunteered to help set up rules and policies for the new hospital, which had just recently opened.
“It was a great way to meet new people and get involved in the community. We were all looking for something worthwhile to do with our time,” says Judy. She started volunteering right after Christmas in 1962 and continued until 1968. By that time, she had two children of her own to care for, so she took a break from her hospital work and volunteered for her children’s school so she could spend more time with them.
When Judy’s husband passed away in 1988, she decided it was time to return to El Camino Hospital. Since then, she has served in numerous positions, including as President of the Auxiliary from 1995-1997. In 2001, she was the recipient of the Community Service award from the Silicon Valley Board of Realtors in recognition for her dedication to serving others. Today, Judy volunteers as a surgery waiting room hostess and loves every minute. “People in the surgery waiting room have a lot of questions and they need some tender loving care,” she shares.
Volunteers are always needed and unfortunately, the number of people with time to donate has declined over the years. “In the 1990’s we had 1,200 auxiliary members plus 200 additional hospital volunteers. Today, we have only about 700 auxiliary members and volunteers total. We need smiling, happy people to help guests find their way around the hospital and escort patients through the hospital. Drivers are needed to volunteer for the RoadRunners Program, which provides transportation for elderly or handicapped people who are unable to drive to their appointments. Other volunteers are needed to staff the coffee cart where proceeds go to fund scholarships and support the hospital in other ways. People who can sew or knit can help make baby caps for newborns, lap blankets for the elderly or comfort pillows for surgical patients. There are always plenty of opportunities to help,” says Judy.
“Volunteers must undergo a background check, be current on all their vaccines and receive ongoing safety training. We regularly review the hospital bylaws, policies and procedures with volunteers to ensure everyone is kept up-to-date and the hospital’s high standards are maintained,” adds Judy.
In 1974, Judy learned she had cancer and was told the average length of survival was one to five years. This year, she celebrated 44 years of being cancer-free. She says, “there must be a reason I’m still here! Volunteering is a way for me to get out, use my mind and body and keep my mind active. I just decided I wasn’t going to sit home and feel sorry for myself.” It is this positive approach to life and her generous spirit that have helped her thrive.
Judy shares, “We have fun here, we make new friends and have formed a community. Volunteering at El Camino Hospital is one of the most satisfying adventures I have had in my life. If I can make just one person smile, I feel like I have done something to help. The opportunity to reach out is there, you just have to take it.”