‘I have a lot of happy memories here’: Michael Garron Hospital recognizes long-time volunteers with annual event
If you’ve visited Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), you’ve likely encountered one of our 500-plus volunteers.
The diverse group ranges in age from 14 to 94 and come from all walks of life to assist in areas such as the Emergency Department, information desk and gift shop in their spare time. And there’s one thing they all have in common.
“They’re extremely proud of their community hospital and very much part of the fabric of the organization,” says Denny Petkovski, manager of Corporate Projects and Volunteer Services at MGH.
MGH’s Volunteer Services department was formally established in 1955, but volunteers have been involved at the organization since its inception more than 90 years ago. They’ve helped develop programs like MGH’s ESL program for foreign-trained healthcare professionals and the Adult and Student Volunteer Programs.
Indeed, the department has grown significantly since its days known as the Physicians’ Wives of East General, when many physicians’ partners spent their time helping at the hospital. But what remains unchanged is the commitment of MGH’s volunteers.
“She’s reliable, dedicated and always willing to help,” Amanda Beazer, a registered nurse in MGH’s oncology unit says of volunteer Helen McBrien, who is celebrating 55 years with MGH this year. “The patients love talking to her, even if it’s a quick ‘How’s it going?’ She always has a smile on her face.”
In addition to Helen, more than 50 other volunteers are celebrating milestones with MGH this year. They were recently recognized with pins at the Volunteer Long Service Awards, an annual volunteer appreciation event that, for 2020, was held virtually. Though many volunteers have not been at MGH in recent months due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was important that their hard work and generosity be recognized.
“The fact that we have volunteers who have been with us for more than 30, 40, 50 years speaks to their dedication, passion and loyalty to MGH,” says Denny. “They volunteer here because they enjoy giving back and being able to help others. We can’t thank them enough for their willingness to give.”
Below, meet Dylis Jones, Helen McBrien and Mary O’Sullivan, three MGH volunteers who are celebrating milestones with the organization this year.
Celebrating 30 years
“I used to live in East York. All four of my children were born at Michael Garron Hospital, actually. When I began volunteering here — Toronto East General as it was called at the time — my then-husband was the chair of the Board of Directors. So it felt natural for me to get involved.
I started volunteering in the Emergency Department, helping people as they came in and directing traffic. I later became the President of Volunteer Services and then Treasurer of Volunteer Services. I’ve always had an upfront, take-charge attitude — and I have a background in accounting — so the positions were a good fit. We’d have monthly meetings and make decisions about things like our gift shop and fundraising. We raised a lot of money for the hospital at the time.
After taking on those roles, I started volunteering at the information desk and I’ve been there since. I have a special feeling for Michael Garron Hospital. I love being able to help people. Whenever possible, I try to go above and beyond my duties. I want to help people feel comfortable because that’s what they come to us — and the hospital — for. And I hope to return to my volunteer work at the hospital once it’s safe to do so again.”
Celebrating 55 years
“I was a nurse at Michael Garron Hospital for 15 years before I started volunteering here. And I met the love of my life at the hospital in that time. I was one of the ‘physicians’ wives’ back when Volunteer Services was called that.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in all sorts of areas and departments, like the gift shop where I helped with buying. I helped bring fancy lingerie to the store: ’90s dressing gowns, bed jackets. We also had slippers, jewellery and cosmetics. Back then, there were more inpatients at the hospital so these items did well. We would approach wholesalers and only buy the best for the shop.
I’ve also served as sort of the director of volunteers, though it wasn’t called that at the time. I’ve helped build the Volunteer Services department from the ground up. I’ve written job descriptions for volunteer positions and had a hand in starting the hospital’s Student Volunteer Program. I think it’s important for young people to learn to give.
In recent years, I’ve worked in the oncology department where we serve patients coffee, tea and snacks. I feel like very lucky; I have a lot of happy memories here. Between helping the staff, physicians and patients, you feel so good about what you do. You realize you receive a heck of a lot more than you give.”
Celebrating 45 years
“I live in Thorncliffe Park, so this is my community hospital. I’ve seen it change so much during my time volunteering here. People have come and gone and there have certainly been improvements along the way.
When I started, I worked at the gift shop. At the time, I was able to contribute to the buying. So I tried to find items in a variety of price points to make sure it was accessible to everybody. We were able to get all sorts of goods, like ginger chocolate. I then started working in the Volunteer Services office where I helped with logistics and setting up files for new volunteers.
It’s a nice feeling to be here. The people are great; there’s always someone you can talk to if you need something. I’ve met so many people who have become friends over the years. And we’ve had the opportunity to do things like see new wings and units at the hospital before they open to the public. It’s like a community here. I certainly want to keep volunteering for as long as I can.”