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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 9th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 44 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 13, Issue 44

It's in the heart

Marian Regional Medical Center volunteers give their all for patients


Sunday is really the only day off Carrie Robinson has. She’s not busy because she works as a Wall Street exec. No, she likes to busy herself because she loves volunteering.

Robinson poses with her co-volunteer Liz Koster. Koster, taking a break from filling envelopes to remind patients about mammograms, has volunteered for two years. Before she began volunteering, she worked for 14 years at Marian Regional Medical Center.

“My family has always been big on service,” said Robinson, who has volunteered with Marian Regional Medical Center for seven years and also serves as the Marian Regional Medical Center Auxiliary president. 

“In 2005, my aunt passed away in her fourth stage [of] breast cancer,” Robinson said about why she started volunteering.

She filled in for different departments to make sure as many areas were covered as possible. It didn’t take long for her to become one of the volunteers who, as the hospital’s human resources director Ami Padilla says, “does and knows everything.”

Now, Robinson is always volunteering and doesn’t want to give it up. On Mondays, she can be found at Mission Hope Cancer Center, where she works as a courtesy reminder for those who are scheduled for their massage therapy.

“Sometimes they say how glad they are I called them because they almost forgot about the appointment,” Robinson said.

Most volunteers work at least a four-hour shift, but Robinson exceeds this by working at the hospital several days a week. She also volunteers at the Santa Maria Family History Center one day a week. Despite the busy schedule, not a trace of exhaustion is visible on Robinson’s face. And Robinson isn’t the only one who enjoys volunteering at the hospital.

Robinson shows off the wigs that patients wear after undergoing chemo. Mission Hope Cancer Center offers patients undergoing chemo wigs, scarves, and wool hats that are crafted by volunteers.

“There are a lot of middle aged and younger people who are stepping up to volunteer,” she said. “Some are retired, and they want to get out and do something. Some had family who received medical services and want to give back. There are also students who want to explore the medical field. And, there are some who lost loved ones.”

Since January of last year, there have been 206 new volunteers, HR director Padilla said. Plus, there is an increase in volunteers when school is out of session.

“There are about 80 teens who work as volunteers, and during summer that number increases to about 100,” she said. Typically, the high school students serve in clerical positions and stock items for nurses “so there is more time for the nurses to spend time on the patients,” she added.

With the caring that exudes from Robinson—as well as others who give their time—it’s not surprising the volunteers are so popular with the patients.

“I pick up the mail twice a day, and I always pick up stacks of thank-you cards,” Robinson said. The volunteers are also mentioned with positive remarks through surveys.

Within Mission Hope Cancer Center, there are two shifts of about 30 volunteers on each floor. What cheers up the patients so much is the enthusiasm and care the volunteers provide through escorting, greeting, and just sitting and talking.

A typical Monday morning has volunteer Carrie Robinson calling patients to remind them of their appointments for therapy massage, which hospital spokeswoman Jessa Brooks says is a big help considering the amount of stress people in chemo undergo.

Liz Koster worked at Marian for 14 years, so volunteering at the hospital is not a new concept for her.

“I really like working as a receptionist,” she said, before directing a patient to his appointment. She then laughed about the elevator button. “The elevator ‘up’ button is broken. I always tell people to press the green tape button, otherwise they aren’t going upstairs.”

The caring doesn’t end at patient’s end. The volunteers look out for each other, too.

“One volunteer showed up and told me, ‘I’m not well. I just need to talk to someone.’ She saw someone at the center for an examination. It turned out to be breast cancer. She went through chemo and completed the process in three weeks,” Robinson said, becoming teary-eyed over the story. 

Despite the record-breaking number of volunteers at Marian, there is a need for more volunteers.

“We would like three each shift, and there is also a need for more bilingual staff,” said Padilla, who estimates there to be about 50 bilingual volunteers out of their pool of 454.

“We also need more volunteers at our two other sites: French Hospital Medical Center and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital.”

Sure, volunteers might get a discount at the hospital’s gift shop, which came as a surprise, but is just one of the perks of being a volunteer.

“They give back to us so much more than we give to them,” Robinson said. “If I’m having a bad day, it can all change whenever I start volunteering. It’s all in the heart.”

Contact Contributor Henry Houston through the managing editor at

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