By Kyle LoJacono
When people think of hospital volunteers they tend to envision older women in pink outfits, but in reality people of all ages and genders can benefit from giving their time.
“We have students as young as 14 to our oldest volunteer who is 96,” said Susan Bennett, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills volunteer coordinator. “We interview the volunteers to find out where they would be most happy and be of most help here. That way they can have a good time while giving back to the community.”
The influx of winter residents in east Pasco County makes the need for volunteers greater at the hospital. Currently its volunteer group, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Auxiliary, has 275 members, but 82 are on leave. To be a volunteer, people need to be at least 14 years old and commit to one four-hour shift weekly for 25 weeks.
“We have four main groups of people who volunteer,” Bennett said. “High school kids usually do it for volunteer hours, while college students are looking for job experience.
“Then you have people just looking for employment and use the volunteering as a foot in the door and let me tell you, I’ve seen that work,” Bennett continued. “More than one person has gotten a job from volunteering here. Then you have the older population looking to stay active and social.”
One volunteer is 15-year-old Jenette Norris, who is home schooled. Older sisters Jessica and Jaimie also volunteered at the hospital.
“I wanted to get some volunteer hours and I heard it was a good place to do that from my sisters,” Norris said. “I like doing it because I know it really helps the other people here get more done.”
On the other end of the age spectrum is Auxiliary president Wilma Eshenour, 82. She has recorded more than 1,400 hours volunteering, a hobby she shares with husband John. Eshenour said she started just to help people and will do so as long as she can.
Volunteers like Norris help in the hospital’s 60 departments doing tasks like answering phones, filing documents, opening mail, helping in the cafeteria and working in the Auxiliary Gift Shop.
“If we didn’t have this kind of help, we couldn’t get half the things done we do now,” Bennett said. “It allows our nurses, doctors and other staff more time with the patients.”
Those working in the gift shop help in another way. All the money from items bought at the store are currently going to fulfill the Auxiliary’s $50,000 commitment to the hospital’s new Compressive Breast Institute. Money from the shop also bought the new shuttle used to take patients to and from their vehicles in the parking lot.
While the hospital has many volunteers now, Bennett said the turnover is usually high, making the need for new helpers a constant. For more information on becoming an Auxiliary volunteer, call (813) 779-6256. Applications can be found at the hospital, 7050 Gall Blvd. in Zephyrhills or by visiting www.fhzeph.org/Careers/Volunteer.aspx.
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