This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Linda Vaicius, a volunteer at our St. Catharines Site.
Linda Vaicius had always valued and appreciated her time volunteering at Niagara Health.
But it wasn’t until she was told in March that the volunteer program had been paused for safety reasons due to the pandemic that she truly realized how much it meant to her.
“It was like this huge hole. I didn’t realize how much time I was there between the gift shop and the front desk,” says Linda, a volunteer at our St. Catharines Site. “I missed the people and talking to people. It was an unbelievable void at the beginning. It really was.”
To fill that void, Linda completed projects around her home, including preparing for the arrival of a new grandchild and a lot of spring cleaning. “Some things I haven’t cleaned in years got cleaned, but then, of course, no one could come over and see it,” she says with a laugh.
She also spent a lot of time supporting her elderly parents.
When Linda received word that she could return to volunteer in the patient registration area of the St. Catharines Site in September, she was ecstatic.
“It’s so good to be back. Being able to give someone a smile, even though you are behind a mask, is a reassuring thing,” she says. “You can see people smile through their eyes. We offer a kind voice and provide that human touch to people.”
Since Sept. 14, volunteers have been assisting patients and visitors in registration areas at our St. Catharines and Welland sites, as well as our Walker Family Cancer Centre in St. Catharines and Cataract Clinic in Welland. This is in addition to those volunteering at our Welland Site Gift Shop, which reopened on Aug. 31.
Volunteers follow infection prevention and control measures in place at Niagara Health, including:
- Passing screening before every shift;
- Wearing a mask at all times;
- Performing meticulous hand hygiene;
- Physical distancing.
“Volunteers are valuable members of the Niagara Health team and will be gradually welcomed back in a way that maintains a safe environment for everyone at the hospital,” says Tracey Giovannone, Manager, Recruitment and Volunteer Services at Niagara Health. “If you see a volunteer, we would encourage you to please thank them for all that they do.”
Linda started volunteering at Niagara Health in 2016 following her retirement as a Programmer Analyst at TRW automotive in St. Catharines.
“I wanted to give back to the community and do something to help people,” says Linda, who has volunteered in several different areas of the hospital over the past four years. “I didn’t want to retire and just sit around.”
Another reason she decided to volunteer at Niagara Health is because her daughter is an Ultrasound Technician at the St. Catharines Site.
“I figured if I volunteer at the hospital, I would probably run into her now and then, which would be nice.”
Linda says while it is nice to give back, she also notes that she receives much in return from volunteering.
“You meet so many people. You always feel good when you leave,” she says. “You know you are helping people and that feels good. It’s very rewarding.”