The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 24, 2013

Mike Pound: Woman’s life changed by volunteering

Marge Miller had a decision to make.

Four years after the death of her husband, Marge had to decide what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She could sit around and feel sorry for herself or, as she put it, “get out in the world and do something.”

The first choice would be the safe one; the second one would be a bit riskier but with a large potential upside.

Marge opted for the second course of action and didn’t look back.

What Marge did was call Freeman Health System and ask about volunteering opportunities. It has been a little more than a year since that phone call, and Marge said she has never been happier.

I met with Marge in the office of Brooke Haneborg, director of marketing for Freeman Health System. The folks at Freeman invited me to chat with Marge because this is National Volunteer Appreciation Week. Brooke said the more than 300 people who volunteer at the three Freeman campuses are vital to the hospitals’ operations.

Brooke said volunteers serve in a variety of roles throughout the hospitals. Some work at the information desks, others in the gift shops. There are volunteers who give free hand massages and those who work with therapy dogs. Others work in the nursery, the neonatal intensive care unit and the Freeman Cancer Center. There are other volunteers who don’t even go to the hospitals.

“We have volunteers who knit stockings and caps to be used in our nursery,” Brooke said.

Most volunteers at Freeman work four-hour shifts. The shifts typically run from 8 a.m. to noon and from noon to 4 p.m., but the hours can vary.

“You can work as little or as much as you want,” Brooke said. “Some volunteers are here almost every day, and some work once a week or once a month.”

Marge spends most of her time working at the front desk at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin. She said she greets visitors, gives them directions and answers questions. She said that if she doesn’t know the answer, she can always find someone who does.

Occasionally, Marge will be asked to deliver flowers to a patient’s room — something she said is a coveted job.

“It’s so good to see the patients light up when you take flowers to their room,” she said.

By the way, I am talking about the volunteers at Freeman Health System because the folks at the hospital invited me to speak with Marge. But I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention that there are thousands of dedicated volunteers working at all area hospitals, and they do it because they enjoy giving back to their communities.

Not to be too corny here, but Marge’s volunteer work at Freeman sort of changed her life.

“My entire life has blossomed since I started volunteering,” she said.

Marge said that through her volunteer work, she has made a host of new friends and at the same time has given herself a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling that she is making a difference.

All in all, it sounds like a pretty neat deal.

The neat thing is that there are a number of perks that come with volunteering at Freeman. You get a free meal during your shift, for example. You receive discounts at the gift shops, and you also receive discounts and deals at several of the hospital’s medical departments.

Best of all, you get a free smock, and as smocks go, the volunteer smocks at Freeman are pretty cool.

If you would like to volunteer at Freeman or would like to know what sort of volunteer opportunities are available, call Linda McIntosh at 417-347-4603.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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