Jenni Gearing is a 65-year-old retiree from the Niagara Falls area who has spent the last 4 1/2 years volunteering at the Greater Niagara General Site. She is just one of 850 volunteers working in valuable roles, helping us provide extraordinary caring to our patients every day. She explains, in her own words, why giving back to her community by helping others is so important to her.
Niagara Health is currently recruiting volunteers to join our extraordinary team. For more information please call 905-378-4647, ext 44630 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What did you do before you retired?
I was a teacher with the District School Board of Niagara. I taught special education students in Welland, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.
How did you hear about Niagara Health’s volunteer opportunities?
One of the women with the Auxiliary knew I was retired and looking for something to do. She knew I was a teacher and thought the Gift Shop might be a good spot for me. That’s how it started. I wasn’t really sure about being a cashier, but I was well trained and supported. The staff in the Gift Shop are excellent!
What was your first day as a volunteer like?
My first day I was being trained on the cash register in the Gift Shop and I was asked to familiarize myself with the merchandise. I was told that the hospital provides the space and the utilities so we can provide the goods at a reasonable price. I was assisted with several transactions and that support continued for several weeks until I was confident in making sales.
How did you go from working in the gift shop to managing the used book sales?
My experience as a teacher-librarian led to me being asked to look after the used books donated by the public. This involves organizing a cart to display the books and to store excess titles in space adjacent to the Volunteer Resources office. Fiction Addition, a used book shop in Niagara Falls, supports the Auxiliary by donating novels in excellent condition. The Coronation Centre also donates books to GNG. Last year, we sold more than $3,000 in used books. All proceeds from the Auxiliary’s book sales and the Gift Shop are used to help GNG acquire much needed equipment.
Over the years, the Auxiliary has contributed more than $3 million towards capital projects such as the Jeff Morgan Emergency Department. In recent years, we aided the Emergency Department’s purchase of a specialized cooling blanket and made a contribution toward the purchase of a laser for urology surgery in December.
As a volunteer, what are some of your responsibilities?
On Tuesday mornings at the Welcome Desk at the GNG front door. Volunteers have many responsibilities here offering a warm welcome for all patients, loved ones and visitors who arrive. We provide information, directions and act as a personal guide through the hospital. We also assist with wheel chair cleanup and roundup, help patients, loved ones and visitors with our parking pay stations, ensure the lobby environment remains clean and presentable. Everything we do is important, and I feel valued when I’m here.
How long do you plan on being a volunteer for?
I’ll do this until my knees wear out. I guess I’ll do this until I can’t anymore.
As a volunteer, how much choice do you have over when and where you spend your time?
When you’re interviewed to be a volunteer, you can outline the time when you are available and choose an assignment that interests you. The Volunteer Coordinator will match you where there is a current need and then follow up to make sure your experience is valuable and rewarding. Once you get here, you might find yourself wanting a little more. I’m often here because I love it.
Over the summer there have been different situations where I’ve filled in for other volunteers. I’ve booked appointments for doctors, or checked in patients as they arrive for their appointments.
We’ve had people come into the hospital who are upset. As a volunteer you have no knowledge of their concern. By being calm and reassuring, we can help them get to where they need to go. For me, that’s the most satisfying part of being a volunteer.
Are there any other aspects to your role that you enjoy?
Many of the secondary school co-op students that we have are quite interested in going into the medical field. Volunteers can encourage them to get the most out of their placements. The young people are enthusiastic and they appreciate the support. I worked with teenagers when I was a teacher, so I found this very rewarding.
What do you say to people who may be thinking about volunteering?
When I’m in the shop or when I’m talking in general to people, I tell them what a good time I’m having. I tell people that it’s a great way to stay busy if they’re looking for something to do, a way of giving back to the community. If you would like to spend time meeting people who are pleasant, supportive, and you enjoy learning new skills, this is a good place for you to be. The staff at the hospital is terrific, and people in the public appreciate your assistance because they recognize the volunteer vest as someone who is knowledgeable, and is also able to help them where they are going. We need more volunteers. You’d be joining a terrific family. We have fun, and we do some great work.