They are the legion dedicated to selfless service in the name of kindness and care.
From providing patients with comfort and reducing anxiety of family members to relieving stress on the medical staff and ensuring everyday duties get accomplished, the army of volunteers at McLaren Greater Lansing provide the friendly faces that keep the hospital functioning efficiently and smoothly.
In honor of National Volunteer Week from April 17-23, McLaren Greater Lansing is saluting and recognizing the hundreds of adults and students whose gift of time help make the health care system meaningful and memorable for everyone who comes through the hospital’s front doors.
“Volunteers are the ‘heart’ of the hospital. Volunteers offer personal contact with the patients and their family members, provide support to hospital staff, and, finally, camaraderie to each other,” said Nancy Meddaugh, president of the McLaren Greater Lansing volunteers and a volunteer herself for the past 15 years. “Volunteers improve the hospital experience by adding a positive touch to everything they do.”
The volunteer opportunities at McLaren Greater Lansing vary widely and are available seven days a week, including evening placements. More than two-dozen volunteer service groups provide distinct opportunities for volunteers to develop new skills, make new friends and contribute to the community.
“Together, they served over 12,000 hours in 2020-2021,” said Susan Fiorillo, supervisor of volunteer services for McLaren Greater Lansing. “They offer comfort in our family lounges; provide warm greetings at our information desks; raise funds in the gift shop; lighten the load of our staff by providing clerical support; they escort patients in and out of the hospital, making sure they arrive at their destination; and sew heart pillows and baby blankets and knit baby hats for the newest members of our community.”
It’s also not uncommon for the devotion of volunteer staff to far exceed their given job description, she added.
“Most of our volunteers go above and beyond,” Fiorillo said. “I have seen them take money from their own pocket to help pay for purchases in the gift shop for both staff and patients. They have offered rides to patients who didn’t have transportation. They will sit with family members in our lounges if they are extremely nervous about a surgery, and they will wait with them past their shift.”
They also give back to the community in more ways than time. Fiorillo said it was volunteers who began raising money for medical equipment back in the 1950s at McLaren’s precursor, Ingham Medical Hospital. That tradition continues to this day.
“The volunteers have continued to raise money through different fundraisers, from uniform and shoe sales to hosting follies,” Fiorillo said. “Through the years, they have purchased many wheelchairs, built the McRee Guest House and have been very generous supporting different additions to the old hospital.”
In 2007, volunteers made a significant contribution to the building of the Chi Heart and Surgical Center, Meddaugh said. In addition, volunteers also provide sponsorship to a number of McLaren Greater Lansing events, such as the Jack Breslin Golf Classic, Annual Gala and Grand Opening Gala.
“In 2021, when an opportunity again arose for the volunteers to provide support for the new McLaren Hospital, we willingly agreed to contribute toward an innovative project that would benefit the Greater Lansing community,” Meddaugh said.
Profits from the hospital’s Peppermint Gift Shop are the main source of revenue that allows volunteers to financially support the hospital.
“The gift store was started in 1962 and was originally a gift cart, a gift bar and then morphed into a gift shop,” Meddaugh said. “Peppermint Gift Shop’s name derived from an apothecary jar with an ornate top, filled with peppermints, sitting on the counter. Customers would take a peppermint and leave a penny in return. Times have changed, though. Today, the gift store is recognized by its red-and-white bags that carry merchandise, snacks, magazines and miscellaneous gifts purchased by guests, staff, patients and visitors.”
The gift shop has a long legacy linking the hospital and volunteer support. As McLaren Greater Lansing transitioned to its next phase at its new hospital and health care campus, the spirit of generosity transitioned right along with it.
“Honestly it is such a wonderful blessing to work with some of the most caring, selfless and thoughtful individuals,” said Fiorillo. “They make me smile with all their stories, jokes, hugs — and I even get serenaded on occasion.”
The hospital is always looking for additional members of the community willing to donate their time, talent and — apparently — vocal abilities as a hospital volunteer. To find out more about volunteer opportunities at McLaren Greater Lansing, contact the volunteers services office at (517) 975-6900 or visit mclaren.org/main/volunteer-information-mclaren-greater-lansing.