Hospital volunteers are often referred to by staff as the heart and soul of the operation. Nurses, doctors and hospital administrators lean on their volunteers for more than just simple tasks. They bring a ray of light to dark moments in patients’ lives, and they enrich the hospital’s environment by being helpful and caring to guests, patients and staff. HealthLinks Charleston asked each hospital in the Charleston area to highlight an exemplary volunteer, and we found that these shining stars, who take time out of their lives to selflessly help others, are more than just volunteers. To the hospital staff, they are friends and an integral part of the hospital’s success.
Some would say that everyone knows Stevie Betros, who has helped the office staff as a volunteer for 23 years. Betros has done a little bit of everything, from assisting with MUSC’s many mass mailings to organizing the magazines provided for people waiting on appointments to giving directions to people unfamiliar with the hospital.
“So many people are lost when they come to MUSC, and I help them find their way,” he explained.
For Betros, volunteering at MUSC is personal: His whole family uses the hospital’s services. His favorite part of the job is being with his co-workers.
“I’m fortunate to have great people to work with, and that is why I have worked here for so long,” he said.
Betros also volunteers at his vet’s office and with the girls and boys basketball teams at Wando High School. He is involved in the Special Olympics as well.
East Cooper Medical Center
President of Volunteers
Jan Ledbetter loves many aspects of volunteering at East Cooper Medical Center, but she said her favorite job is managing the gift shop. Ledbetter has volunteered at East Cooper since she retired 16 years ago.
“I decided I wanted to help my community by volunteering, and I haven’t looked back ever since,” said Ledbetter, who has been the president of volunteers for the past four years.
“The staff is so nice. It makes it easy to want to do a good job when you have people that are so kind and supportive,” she said.
You will most likely will find Ledbetter in the gift shop, but she also plans fundraisers for a scholarship program. Proceeds from the gift shop help fund nine $1,000 scholarships a year, and any overhead money ends up with charities such as My Sister’s House and Meals on Wheels.
Ledbetter and the other volunteers give an engraved pewter spoon for each infant born at East Cooper, and they also provide CPR kits for parents of premature babies.
“It is all very rewarding to provide funding for these programs,” Ledbetter said. “Volunteering at East Cooper has been a blessing. I have lived a fulfilling life, and it is important to me to give back.”
Debbie C. Carter
Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital
Volunteer on the Surgical Progressive Care Unit
Debbie Carter enjoys volunteering in the Surgical Progressive Care Unit because she said that many patients need someone who will make them smile – and she is happy to do just that.
“There is so much that I do, but simply visiting with the patients is the most rewarding part,” she said. “I’ve lived a good life, and it is the least I can do to spend time with these patients.”
Keeping patients company is just one of her many duties. She helps the nurses change linens and prepare to bathe patients, and she makes sure the nurses have everything they need in each room. Carter said she helps the nurses out in any way she can.
“If I have noticed that the nurses haven’t eaten because it has been a particularly busy day, I will offer to pick them all up some lunch from the cafeteria,” she said.
She likes working at Bon Secours St. Francis because she said the nurses appreciate her.
“Everyone is caring and giving,” Carter said. “The people there are so professional and friendly.”
Carter enjoys volunteering because she feels that what she does is important to the nurses.
“They are so busy and need assistance,” she said. “I’m happy that I can help them out.”
Summerville Medical Center
Volunteer in Pediatrics as a Reading Therapist
Shirley Schulz recently retired as a school librarian and desperately wanted to continue working with children in some capacity. She came up with the idea to offer reading therapy to the pediatric unit at Summerville Medical Center.
“The administrators and staff at Summerville Medical Center listened to my ideas and were very receptive to me,” she said. “I have always had a passion for books, reading and children, and I hoped to tie all that together into some type of service.”
Schulz said that going from the school environment to the hospital environment has opened up a whole new world to her.
“I enjoy interacting with the diversity of hospital personnel, and the pediatric nurses have been so helpful to me,” she said.
Schulz takes pride in the books that are selected to read to young patients.
“I am briefed by the nurses beforehand, and I make sure I select just the right book every time,” she said, explaining that the books are purchased with funds from small donations, contributions from the community and supportive book vendors, along with her personal contributions.
From infants to adolescents, Schulz reads and interacts with them all.
“I greatly enjoy my role as a pediatric reader,” she said. “And I feel the appreciation upon each visit from the patients and their parents.”
Trident Medical Center
Information Desk Volunteer
Mervelle Williams is the first face people see when they enter Trident Medical Center. She has been an information desk volunteer for almost 20 years. Williams does it all. She lets visitors know which rooms patients are in, directs people to where they need to go, answers the phones and works in the errand room, running lab work from various floors to the lab room on the first floor. Williams also delivers flowers to patients’ rooms.
“I do anything that needs to be done,” she said.
Williams calls the other volunteers at Trident her second family.
“Everyone is so friendly and nice,” she said. “All the nurses and staff are extremely helpful and caring. I love being with people and helping in any way I can.”
Williams said that she thinks volunteering is important because she actually gets back more than she gives.
“We are all former somebodies. We are all able to bring some expertise to our jobs and help others,” she said. “I also enjoy being around younger people. It does me good and enriches me in more ways than they could ever know.”
Jesse Pace has been a volunteer Disabled American Veterans driver with the VA Hospital in downtown Charleston for more than a decade. The DAV partners with the hospital to provide veterans with no-cost transportation to and from appointments. As a veteran himself — he spent 20 years in the Army — he feels he owes it to his fellow servicemen to make sure they get to and from their appointments.
“It gives me so much satisfaction to help out a fellow vet,” he said. “I also really enjoy meeting people.”
Pace said that many of the veterans he transports cannot drive because they can’t walk.
“Without me, they wouldn’t be able to get to their appointments at all,” he said. “Many of the veterans are so grateful, and they thank me for my service.”
Pace said he could not imagine doing anything else with his life right now.
“Helping veterans is rewarding,” he said. “There is nothing else I would rather do.”