Groves hospital volunteer association has history of generosity

FERGUS – The Groves Hospital Volunteer Association (GHVA) has a remarkable history of generosity. Originally called “Hospital Aid” when the organization formed in 1933, the GHVA has made an impact on the well-being our community that would be hard to measure. 

In the early years, items like a ringer washing machine, obstetrical table, a refrigerator for blood storage, and a library cart were donated. Now, over $4 million has been donated to fund the purchase of a CT scanner, to help build the new Groves Memorial Community Hospital and to fund other needs. 

Dedicated volunteers have been and continue to be the backbone of GMCH. 

Hospital volunteers 

Nancy Peer-Lalani has been the manager of GHVA for almost eight years. 

“I love working with volunteers,” she said. “They are a valuable human resource that supports our organization’s goals by providing comfort and reassurance to patients and visitors as well as supporting our healthcare professionals.”

Lalani added, “They accept their responsibilities passionately and are compensated only by the satisfaction of giving back and helping others.”

Those responsibilities include greeting and directing, delivering meal trays, staffing the gift shop, working with patients in the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), and supporting ER and clinic staff.

HELP program

The HELP program started in 2012. “It is a researched program that prevents delirium and functional decline in patients aged 65 and over,” said Laura Burns, an elder life specialist.  Trained volunteers provide orientation, exercise, social and recreational interactions and meal assistance. HELP volunteer Chris Ecclestone knew that after she retired she wanted to  work “with the elderly, as there always seems to be a need.”

“It is my hope to be able to bring a smile to someone’s face,” Ecclestone said.

“This is a wonderful community full of generous people in terms of [giving] time to support others.  Groves Hospital is a wonderful new facility, with a great staff team who are supportive, encouraging and appreciative of volunteers.”  

Burns said that HELP volunteers have “a special heart. They are patient and kind and have the time to help patients feel comfortable and supported while they are in hospital… HELP volunteers are the heart of the program and go above and beyond to support patients, families and staff.”

The Gift Shop

Known as The Tuck Shop in earlier days, the hospital Gift Shop is staffed entirely by volunteers.

Carol Kane became a volunteer with GHVA about five years ago. “At that time, I joined the PFAC (Patient and Family Advisory Committee). Then an opening happened in the Gift Shop, which I jumped on. I just love it,” she said.

“Carol is a big asset,” Lalani said. “She is always willing to help with merchandising, receiving, stocking, pricing and discounting.”

Kane is also on the executive of the Ladies Auxiliary at the Elora Legion. “We live in a wonderful community that welcomes volunteers with appreciation.” She added that it’s rewarding and it gives her a chance to give back to the community.

She noted that more volunteers are needed and suggested people “Try it, you may really enjoy it. You meet some wonderful people and have fun.”

The success of the Gift Shop is partly driven by donations received. Kane’s fellow volunteer Doreen Wilson donates hand-made teddy bears, puppets and baby outfits.

“Doreen is a real gem, Lalani said. 

Welcoming smiles

When entering the hospital to visit or attend an appointment, volunteers like Joe Babin are there to help. 

“Joe helps visitors understand the intake and check-in process. Having friendly and welcoming faces at the front desk are just what the doctor ordered, and Joe is a great one,” Lalani said. 

Babin, who moved to the community a few years ago, found out about the volunteer position while attending a community outreach event at the Fergus sportsplex.

He noted that the process to become a volunteer can be daunting for some people, but he is now in his third year as a volunteer with GHVA. 

“I see there is such a need here. I see the condition of people coming in,” he said. “It gives you empathy and perspective.” He works on Mondays and fills in when he can.  “Everybody’s very friendly here,” he said.

Emergency room support

In the ER, volunteers like Kami Durzi are making a difference too. Lalani describes Durzi as “very enthusiastic and committed.”

Durzi, a second year neuroscience student at the University of Guelph (U of G), began volunteering in the ER last summer. Durzi is also part of the U of G’s First Response Team and will be working for the Canadian Coast Guard this summer. Durzi appreciates the opportunity and said her position in Grove’s ER is inspiring. “I see the enormous team effort, dedication and deep passion for patient care,” she said. 

GHVA board

All 11 hospital board positions are held by volunteers. Gloria Shoon currently serves on three committees: New to You Development, Communications and Bursary.

Shoon retired from the corporate world in 2020. But her history of volunteerism started long before that. She has had many different roles over the years with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way and Hospice Wellington.

“I chose GHVA because of the excellent work our volunteers do, both at Groves Community Hospital and the New to You thrift store,” she said. “The NTY concept is so purpose-filled in so many ways. It’s a win-win-win for our donors, volunteers and the hospital.”

A key for her was the fact that all funds raised are donated back to the hospital. She also noted  “the wonderful teamwork on the various committees is heart-warming.”

“Our community has a huge heart, and I have found a space to use my skills and experience to serve the community,” she said. “I love volunteering. It is very rewarding since I know I am making a small difference ultimately, to a person in our community.”

To anyone considering volunteering, Shoon said “Just do it. Get involved and get engaged. We need you.”

Lalani said, “Our volunteers invest in our organization by donating their precious time and efforts. They are truly our success.”

Lorie Black