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For love of volunteering

Seniors at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital assist patients, staff and community

Posted: April 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Robert Hill staffs the information desk at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. Hill has volunteered at the hospital for more than 12 years.

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It was just about five years ago when Mary Hartsfield had retired and was ready to start a new chapter in her life by helping others.

“I wanted to feel needed,” said Hartsfield, a 75-year-old resident of Newhall. “I just didn’t want to be lazy and not have anything to do during the day.”

She soon found volunteer opportunities at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and for more than four years, Hartsfield has made weekly visits to the Valencia hospital to help in the women’s unit.

She was motivated by a personal experience where her grandchild was born prematurely and spent 83 days in a Los Angeles hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

“I wanted to work with newborn babies,” she said.

With 10 grandchildren, Hartsfield said she’s happy to help new moms adjust during their hospital stay.

Volunteers are prevented from providing medical support, so Hartsfield will serve patients meals, spend time talking to new moms and helping nurses.

“We just try to make the women’s unit a smoother running operation by helping the nurses every way we can,” she said. “It gives me a purpose to my life.”

Hartsfield is one of countless volunteers at the Santa Clarita Valley’s only hospital who support patients and staff.

At the end of last year, Henry Mayo volunteers clocked 53,119 hours of support for the hospital, said Maria Strmsek, director of volunteer services.

Volunteers are scattered throughout the hospital campus and are able to work with patients, nurses and hospital staff to meet the needs of the community.

There are volunteers who help arrange bed linens and towels, serve families in waiting rooms and provide library cart service to patients, Strmsek said.

“We have them all over,” she said. “The volunteer can sit down and spend time and be supportive and engaging. They can add that extra tender care. It really is very fulfilling.”

The gift shop is completely run by volunteers and many lead support groups to help the public.

Even homebound seniors volunteer to make baby blankets, which are donated to new babies in the hospital.

Strmsek has come across volunteers who come to the hospital to help with their friends. Others may have been helped by volunteers in the past and are ready to give back to the community.

“They affect and will inspire others to come back and volunteer,” she said. “It takes a lot of people to make something really special.”

Among the volunteers is Larry Stern, who served as a volunteer a decade ago. He’s since returned to his volunteer roots and has donated just over 900 hours.

“I wanted to give back to the community,” the 69-year-old resident from Valencia said. “I’m retired now, and I just thought it would be a good way.”

Stern visits the hospital once a week to help in the emergency room, he said. There he’s able to make beds, provide blankets and pillows to patients, and carry out tasks for staff.

Stern retired about two years ago and turned to volunteering as a way to stay busy.

“When I see a need, I like to help,” he said.

It’s a thought Hartsfield shares, too.

“You make (patients) feel welcome in the hospital and you make them feel that Henry Mayo really cares about them.”

Along with working in the women’s unit, Hartsfield volunteers for the hospital’s Tyke Hike, a community program that teaches siblings how to become model big brothers and sisters once a newborn comes home.

As much as she’s given back, the experience has enriched Hartsfield’s post-retirement life.

“I thoroughly enjoy my work at the hospital,” she said. “It’s the highlight of my week.”


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