Coming into a hospital can be nerve-wracking. A visitor might be nervous about a pending procedure or may feel overwhelmed with the idea of having to navigate their way around a new place.
But the lobby escorts at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca are happy to help, alleviating any fears with a smile and welcoming presence. “I think it’s therapeutic to have somebody there,” said Andi Crane, volunteer coordinator.
Volunteer Sharon Bonikowske of Waupaca agreed. “They look nervous or don’t know where to go,” she said. A smile and greeting to the visitors is the life-line they need, especially if it is from someone they know. Bonikowske, 66, is a familiar face from the community having been the vice president at Farmer’s State Bank of Waupaca, where she worked for 35 years.
She recalls past visits to the hospital and seeing greeters in the lobby. “I always thought that would be something fun to do,” she said. Bonikowske retired six years ago but took a year off to herself. Then she signed up to volunteer in the hospital lobby. “I love to see people,” she said. “That’s what I used to do. I get to see a lot of the customers I used to see. It’s been a win-win for the hospital and a win-win for me.”
The position allows her to remain active, not just in the community but physically, as she walks around the hospital and ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca, which is attached to the hospital. “I think it’s just satisfying for me to be able to do something instead of just sitting at home,” said Bonikowske. “It makes you feel good that you can help someone else out.”
Crane said there are currently 65 volunteers who volunteer Monday through Friday in the hospital lobby and gift shop. Lobby escorts assist people in getting to where they need to go, push patients in wheelchairs to and from procedures, and assist in any way needed in the hospital. “Volunteers do the extra things that staff can’t always do,” she said.
Bonikowske enjoys working with the other volunteers and the hospital staff and the flexibility of the position. “It’s certainly not hard work,” she said. “You get to see a lot of people and talk to a lot of people.”
Crane said the volunteers are special people. Those that want to volunteer need to be out-going and in good physical condition, she said, adding that the volunteer position is like a volunteer exercise program. “They get to walk and do exercise,” she said, noting that volunteering at the hospital is “good for them in a lot of different ways.”
For volunteer information, stop by the hospital or call Andi Crane, volunteer coordinator, at 715.258.1065.