“I think hospitals can be very frightening for people,” says Vickie Bedo, OakBend Medical Center volunteer. “I want people to know that there’s a real need to have a smiling face, a helping hand and a reassuring glance for people who are coming in who might be going through the worst period of their life.”
Vickie has been volunteering at OakBend since the fall of 2011, mainly spending her time in the gift shop of our Jackson Street location. The Jackson Street gift shop offers items like home gifts, snacks, and get-well cards. Monday through Friday, two to three volunteers staff the store, to offer help to visitors and help them shop for unique gifts. “Customers sometimes don’t realize we’re volunteers, and when we tell them that the profit of their purchase goes straight back to the hospital, they will sometimes leave their change as a donation,” says Pat Burks, another gift shop volunteer. “They are surprised that we are so giving of our time.”
The shop is nestled next to the front desk of the Gurecky Atrium, serving as a first stop for all OakBend visitors and patients. Diane Box is one of the volunteers that serve as ambassadors at this desk, as well as the occasional courier. “This year in March will be my 23rd anniversary volunteering with OakBend,” she says. “I enjoy the people, and I enjoy being helpful. I grew up in Richmond, so I feel that it’s a good thing to give back to my community. I just enjoy being here, and being around other volunteers, and especially giving a smile to people when they come in.”
The OakBend Medical Center volunteer program was established in 1960 when the hospital, the then-named Polly Ryon Memorial Hospital, was ten years old. Volunteers hold six fundraising events throughout the year, including the popular Power of the Purse, a seated luncheon with auction of high-end handbags.
“I’m here when patients are here,” says Dawn Basden, current volunteer president. “I’m one of the first people they see when they come in for day surgery at 6 a.m., and I get to be the person that helps relax them and pass the time.”
Volunteers like Dawn—45 of them– are spread throughout every department of the hospital, including the gift shop, laboratory, day surgery, laboratory, emergency room and even labor & delivery.
“We are here to be a bright spot, a smiling face, and lend an ear for people,” says Barbi Parmley, a courier at Jackson Street. “We just want to help people and make them smile.”
Collectively, volunteers like Dawn, Barbi, Diane, Pat and Vickie work 180 hours a week, on average approximately 9,000 hours a year, bringing assistance and a sunny attitude to patients and employees of OakBend Medical Center.
‘We’re not volunteering to just drink coffee, eat lunch and chat,” says Vickie Bedo. “Doctors and nurses work so hard to cure people, and if we can help them in their effort to make these people well, or if we in some way can help ease pain, fear and uncertainty, then I think we’ve done our job as volunteers.”
If you are interested in becoming an OakBend Medical Center volunteer, please visit imh.oakbendmedcenter.org/volunteering.