In a touching celebration held on March 25, 2021 on the front concourse of CarolinaEast Medical Center, CarolinaEast Leadership Team and Staff members welcomed back their Health System Volunteers. Just over one year ago, the team of nearly 400 Volunteers were put on hiatus due to the novel illness COVID-19.
As the situation evolved and officials have recently expanded state and federal guidelines in regards to COVID-19, CarolinaEast Leadership made the decision to invite back the Volunteers that have been fully vaccinated and feel comfortable returning. CarolinaEast Volunteer Manager Kara Chadwick asked those Volunteers to come to the hospital on Thursday morning for a short reorientation. Instead, they were met with a literal red carpet, balloons and treats, and many of CarolinaEast Administration and staff members clapping and cheering in a joyful welcome back celebration.
“We love our volunteers, we’ve missed them, our patients have missed them,” said CarolinaEast president and CEO Ray Leggett after a robust half-hour cheering in the reception line. “It’s like part of the family is not in the house and we are glad to have them back. We have close to 400 volunteers and they do it because they have it in their hearts and it is a testament to the people of this area.”
Volunteers have been a part of the hospital family since they opened their doors in 1963. Formerly affiliated with the American Red Cross, the CarolinaEast Health System Gray Ladies and Lads were proud to be the last civilian hospital-based group of Red Cross volunteers in the state of North Carolina. Over the years, the group has evolved and expanded to several roles across the health system, to include patient transporters, Sewers & Crafters, Library Service, Student Volunteers and many others.
Perhaps the most beloved group of Volunteers is the team of 13 Thera-Paws dogs that walk the halls of CarolinaEast, bringing smiles and comfort to patients and staff alike. Volunteer and Thera-Paws dog handler, Kathy Carnes stated, “We didn’t realize how much therapy this is for us… both for Daisy and myself; we really missed it this past year. It’s really difficult knowing the hospital staff needed us more than ever, patients needed the company more than ever, and we couldn’t come in.”
CarolinaEast is overjoyed to have their Volunteers back, and the Volunteers themselves no doubt feel the same. They were unanimously surprised and overwhelmed by Thursday’s welcome. CarolinaEast Volunteer and US Navy Veteran Jim O’Connor claims “To put it mildly, this is one of the best days of my life.”
To learn more about CarolinaEast’s Volunteer program, or to apply to volunteer, visit carolinaeasthealth.com/employment/volunteer-opportunities/
By Brandy Popp, Manager, Public Relations, CarolinaEast Health System