QUINCY — The Blessing Health System feted its corps of volunteer workers at a Wednesday afternoon tribute inside Town and Country Inn and Suites.
That was the good news.
The bad news, however, is the organization sorely needs hundreds more volunteers to meet the needs of a wide range of assistance it offers.
Christy Woodward is the director of volunteer services at Blessing, and admits the program is currently spread thin in an effort to try and meet the demands and requests that before the pandemic were relatively easy to coordinate.
“Prior to COVID, we had more than 700 volunteers,” Woodward said.
Right now, that number is less than half that pre-pandemic total.
“We’re still rebuilding (the program),” Woodward said.
The volunteers aid all sorts of Blessing services, from hospitality to chaplaincy to hospice.
“The volunteers are invaluable,” said Sarah Cole, adult health care coordinator, who works with about 180 of the volunteers.
Woodward agrees — wholeheartedly.
“It’s hard to put into words what the volunteers provide,” she said. “The volunteers are wonderful, selfless individuals.”
Blessing leaders pointed out that even during 2021 — a time that was still being heavily affected by the pandemic — volunteers donated nearly 30,000 hours of service to Blessing Hospital, Illini Community Hospital in Pittsfield and Blessing Health Keokuk. Information supplied by Blessing Health System indicated the value of that contribution of time and talent exceeded $830,000, a figure based on multiplying the national estimated value of a volunteer hour ($28.54) by the number of hours donated by volunteers over the course of the year in question. At its pre-pandemic peak, the number of hours contributed was close to 70,000.
The average age of a Blessing volunteer is around 72, according to Woodward. She said that age group been especially susceptible to the virus and some have been more hesitant to get out as much as they did prior to Covid. The volunteer program was completely shut down during the early days, weeks and months of the pandemic. Slowly, but surely, in recent months those volunteers wishing to return to help have been worked back into the system — volunteers like Connie Mowen and Jim Tucker.
“About 30 years ago a friend of mine talked me into volunteering,” said Mowen, who is now 81. Mowen said she has no plans to retire from volunteering anytime soon.
“I enjoy just doing things for others,” she said.
Tucker, 75, echoes that same sentiment.
“I know that I’m helping people,” said Tucker, who has been volunteering for “six or seven years”.
Tucker said “it is a joy” what he does and looks forward to contributing in a variety of ways — wherever he is needed.
“I hope to volunteer as long as I can,” he said.
Blessing records indicate there are currently 13 volunteers who have been contributing for more than 30 years. That group is anchored by Betty Lubbert, who has been volunteering more than 49 years. Blessing offers more than 40 areas that volunteers can assist, with a relaxed, flexible scheduling. Woodward said volunteers can work as little as once a month, or volunteer as much as they like. Woodward said most volunteer one to three times a week.
“All of these volunteers brighten our world,” Woodward said.
Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?
Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.Purchase Story