Windham Hospital offers variety of volunteer opportunities

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
Volunteers Claudette Logasse, Barbara Hineline and Angela Bowen take the Wellness on Wheels cart from Integrative Health to patient rooms, offering books, music and health information. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

According to Shawn Maynard, executive director of the Windham Hospital Foundation, there are numerous people from all over the region who volunteer their services at the hospital. Current volunteers include: 135 adults, 38 students between the ages of 14 and 18, and 75 additional adults who are UConn and Eastern Connecticut State University students. The number of youth volunteers “basically doubles” during the summer months, said Maynard.

“Our hospital has been in existence for over 80 years,” said Maynard. “Historically, our hospital relies on volunteers to support our staff, our patients and our visitors.” The hospital’s use of volunteers has evolved over the years since it was founded in 1933. Early volunteers provided services such as making bandages out of cloth and growing vegetables in nearby gardens. During World War II, “they might have filled roles, out of necessity, that a nurse would normally do, because there was a shortage,” said Maynard.

The reasons for volunteering are as numerous as the potential duties. “With people retiring earlier, they want to do something that is meaningful,” said Maynard. Younger volunteers might need to fulfill a community service requirement. Some people are simply looking for a way to give back to their community. There is role for just about any skill set, with volunteers doing clerical work, delivering flowers to patient rooms, performing patient transport, manning the information desk, and filling a wide, and growing, variety of other roles. “We’re always identifying new areas for volunteers,” said Maynard.

Preparing for the blizzard on Feb. 8, Maynard said that volunteers would be helping to transport essential personnel. “We have people with four-wheel-drive who volunteer to help get people to work,” he said. A volunteer can help by adding that special touch to a patient’s day.

“Often, a volunteer who is transporting a patient will strike up a conversation with them,” said Maynard. A volunteer delivering newspapers might stop to have a chat with a patient. “It just helps to cheer up their day,” said Maynard. A volunteer might assist the nursing staff by bringing a patient a fresh glass of water. This type of small touch is beneficial to both the patient and the staff, especially when the hospital is very busy. “That way, the clinical people can concentrate on the other needs of the patient,” said Maynard.

Hebron resident Phyllis Tkacz has been volunteering at the Windham Hospital coffee shop for almost four years. “I wanted to volunteer, and I wanted something totally different than what I’d done before,” she said. She was drawn to the hospital because she’d been a patient there briefly and appreciated the environment. Having retired from a state job in an office environment, Tkacz sat down with the volunteer coordinator. When she heard about the coffee shop position, “I thought that it’d be totally different than anything I’d ever done before,” she said. “I thought it would be interesting.”

And it has been interesting, said Tkacz. “It’s a very busy environment, so the time goes by very quickly,” she said. Tkacz interacts with a variety of people during her current bi-weekly shift, from doctors to nurses to patient visitors. “A lot of the people who come in there are stressed out,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to offer them a cup of coffee and something to eat so they can get revamped.” Tkacz especially enjoys being able to offer a stressed-out new dad a bite to eat. “Just a little something to help them get through the day,” she said.

Coventry resident Cathy Kennelly has been volunteering at the hospital gift shop for more than two years. “After I retired, I was looking for something to do in the volunteer line,” she said. Kennelly had volunteered as a teenager at the hospital library. She decided to return to Windham Hospital, and believes she made the right decision. “I really enjoy the people that I meet,” she said. “I think one of the best things about it is seeing someone with a worried look on their face, looking for something for their relative. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to be able to help them in that moment, to be able to provide exactly what they’re looking for.”

Kennelly said the Windham Hospital gift shop is very well-stocked, and carries a variety of gift items that attract both staff and patient visitors. Kennelly enjoys interacting with them all. “It’s nice to be able to provide people with just that thing that might make their day a little bit easier,” she said.

In addition to volunteering within the hospital itself, people looking to give of their time can become involved with the Windham Hospital Auxiliary, which is devoted to fundraising and “friend-raising” for the hospital. A recent large project completed by the Auxiliary, according to Maynard, was helping to raise the money for an oncology and outpatient infusion suite.

For more information about volunteering at Windham Hospital, go to and click on “Auxiliary and Volunteers” green column on the left. Or, call Rebecca Putnam at 860-456-6700 about the auxiliary, or 860-456-6792 for a volunteer application.

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