Volunteer finds satisfaction helping others

Sunday, December 9, 2012
Shirley Waterman at work Monday in the in the surgical waiting room at Southeast Hospital. Waterman volunteers at the hospital every Monday morning. (ADAM VOGLER)

"You make a life by what you give."

Shirley Waterman believes in giving rather than receiving. Her gift: an amazing 9,000 hours of volunteer service at Southeast Hospital over more than three decades.

This Cape Girardeau resident recently received the prestigious Ilena Aslin Service Award from the SoutheastHEALTH Auxiliary for helping to brighten the lives of patients, visitors and staff.

Shirley began volunteering in 1978, two years after her husband Bud had a heart attack and underwent treatment at Southeast Hospital. She remembered the wonderful kindness shown by volunteers to her husband when he was hospitalized. That sparked her desire to join the auxiliary and become an active volunteer at the hospital.

She previously worked part-time at SoutheastHEALTH and volunteered in the afternoon. Shirley immediately embraced her role and offered to direct the hospital lobby desk, which was known as the Hostess Desk. She was responsible for staffing the desk with volunteers every shift, every day. When volunteers could not be there, Shirley took on extra shifts, realizing the importance of offering a friendly greeting and reassuring word to patients and families as they entered the hospital. She later volunteered and crafted beautiful gifts that were sold in their Wishing Well Gift Shop. Eventually, Shirley found yet another niche as a volunteer in the surgical waiting room, often arriving as early as 6 a.m. Although her husband has continued health problems, Shirley faithfully reports for duty in the surgical waiting room every Monday morning.

Shirley said she is happy to volunteer. "I love to be with people," she will tell you. In the waiting room, families and friends are often under a great deal of stress as they await the outcome of surgery on a friend or loved one. Shirley finds great satisfaction in helping others in the surgical waiting room, whether it's offering families a cup of coffee, a comforting word or a warm smile. She's always there for them. That's Shirley.

She will tell you that a volunteer's cheerful and reassuring demeanor -- she is known for her merry holiday sweaters -- speaks volumes to patients and families. In many cases for families, it's their first impression of SoutheastHEALTH and a lasting one.

All of our volunteers -- those in the auxiliary and those involved with Hospice -- play a vital role in our SoutheastHEALTH organization. The auxiliary has provided enthusiastic volunteers for the hospital and its expanding services for 75 years, growing from just a few women to a team of more than 200 men and women who believe in service to others.

In just the past 12 months, our auxiliary members have provided more than 54,000 hours of service to SoutheastHEALTH, staffing everything from waiting rooms to the Gift Shop, transporting patients throughout the hospital and delivering flowers and e-cards full of good wishes to patients. They also are active in fundraising to support our excellent health care programs and services.

Our Hospice volunteers, a dedicated cadre of more than 60 men and women who provide support for terminally ill patients and their families, contributed nearly 10,500 hours of service in 2012.

We at SoutheastHEALTH applaud our dedicated and caring volunteers who daily assist patients, families and staff. Their compassionate spirit and tireless efforts are vital to our mission of providing the best health care for our patients.

We absolutely could not do what we do without our exceptional volunteers. They truly make a difference each and every day. On behalf of everyone at SoutheastHEALTH, our sincere gratitude and thanks.

Wayne Smith is the president and CEO at SoutheastHEALTH in Cape Girardeau.

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