A salute to our community volunteers – Reflections of Ponoka

The Yodelling Cowboys graciously volunteered their gift of music for many years in and around our community. Shown are: Barb Farnham

The Yodelling Cowboys graciously volunteered their gift of music for many years in and around our community. Shown are: Barb Farnham

They come from all age groups, nationalities and walks of life, and our precious community volunteers serve year-round to bring a little care and joy to others, and to help make countless fundraisers and local events successful. In their honour, April 10 to the 16 has been declared as National Volunteer Week, and throughout the central zone of Alberta Health Services, volunteer resources departments will salute these dedicated groups and individuals with a number of fun and special celebrations!

The always greatly appreciated assistance of volunteers has been prominent throughout our town and county for many decades and would grow rapidly with strong organization and keen support. At the Alberta Hospital Ponoka, staff members Hazel Bakewell, Jacquie Tiltgen, Margo Dowling, and Diane Lafluer led an early group to encourage volunteers to assist patients and programs throughout the hospital, then in 1990 Lynn Gray resumed the position of co-ordinator of volunteer services at the psychiatric hospital. The Alberta Hospital in those early days was also very strongly supported by an active auxiliary, which was mainly composed of doctors’ wives who kindly provided teas and fundraising events, all for the benefits of the patients.

These ongoing and successful volunteer programs later expanded to the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre, with volunteers now able to provide their valuable time and talents at both sites if they wished. With the kindly encouragement, assistance, and support of Pat Lindsay and the long-standing Hospital Ladies’ Auxiliary, who just proudly celebrated their 60th anniversary, the initial volunteer registration would feature 15 enthusiastic individuals. The Candy Stripers was also a very popular program at the Ponoka General, which saw students after school providing ice water and cheer to the bedsides of the patients. This delightful activity is no longer called candy stripers, but is still popular with our community youth today.

The active volunteer resources program includes 135 registered individuals and 24 groups at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, as well as 95 individuals and 19 groups at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre. Janice Mackie and Leanne Brusegard are the volunteer co-ordinators of these year-round programs. After over 20 years of service at the Centennial Centre, Lynn Gray was appointed as the central zone manager of volunteer resources for Alberta Health Services, replacing Donna Carter, who is now the provincial director. The central zone includes hospitals and community health care services in: Red Deer, Rocky, Stettler, Sundre, Three Hills, Wetaskiwin, Rimbey, Ponoka, Innisfail, Olds, Lacombe, Drayton Valley, and Breton, and are now steadily expanding into the east central region.

Volunteer activities are many and varied throughout the hospitals and health communities. Activities include pet visitations, musical and entertainment groups, baking, crafts, recreation events, support groups, clerical, palliative care and adult day support, visitations to homes and care centres, doula, fundraising, hosting clinics, Caring Klowns, clerical support, assistance with meals, and so much more.

An amazing statistic about this central zone program reveals during 2010 more than 3,000 volunteers and 300 community groups and auxiliaries willingly contributed more than 202,000 hours of their time and talent to assist others. This represents the equivalent of 62 full-time employees. If you placed an average wage of $13.72 on their yearly contributions, it would mean that these dedicated citizens from age eight to 80 have donated over $1.7 million in time and talent to this most vital volunteer program.

Alberta Health Services is very proud of their unsung heroes, who each and every day make a profound difference in the quality of the lives of the patients that they serve. They’re up-beat presence and extreme talents are visible each and every day as volunteers reach out to help others in so many wonderful ways. As a vital part of our health care system, volunteers love to share their time, energy, and a fresh point of view that supports and enhances the quality of life for patients, residents, visitors, family, and staff.

There is no doubt that volunteer spirit is alive and well in our communities throughout the central zone, which proudly encompasses 1,846 registered adults, 235 registered youth, 231 groups, and 469 auxiliary members contributing their services to others.

As well as the heartfelt appreciation that our volunteers receive from the countless people and causes that they serve in and around the community, students have the opportunity of enjoying the many challenges and rewards of their youth. As well as being able to job share and get an early glance at possible future careers, they are also recognized by their classmates and peers during the annual Encana Leaders of Tomorrow program.

The celebrations of Volunteer Week will take place in communities across Canada, and will also include a formal recognition program that will be unveiled during National Volunteer Week. Please try to attend these congenial functions, but also be sure to extend your thanks and congratulations to our community volunteers throughout the busy year.

If you wish to live-laugh-care-share and become a volunteer at any Ponoka hospital, please contact Leanne at 403-704-8801 or Janice at 403-783-7782.