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National Volunteer Week

national volunteer week

Friends of Strong volunteers consistently give their time, talent, and treasures. They work tirelessly to bring joy and show kindness to the patients, families, and staff that see them every week. They guide people. They aid others without reserve. They inspire smiles, positivity, and hospitality in everyone they interact with.

This week, April 21-27, is dedicated to all our volunteers, to celebrate their service to the mission and vision of Strong Memorial Hospital. Wherever and whenever needs arise, these amazing volunteers serve with patients, families, and visitors in mind— connecting with and providing comfort to those who entrust the hospital to help them navigate their healing journeys.

Friends of Strong’s volunteers today serve in many areas including, Transplant, Imaging, patient advocacy, Ambassador Services, Strong West, Wilmot Cancer Center, Orthopaedics, the Hospital Gift Shop, Inpatient Pediatrics and Ronald McDonald House at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

The new Friends of Strong Senior Volunteer Services Specialist, Aislinn Sexton, commented, “Our volunteers are prepared every day with a smile and the willingness to help our staff, patients, and families. Every volunteer I work with is so generous with their time and the support they give to the URMC community. I appreciate our volunteers every day and I hope this week they know how much we love having them as a part of our team!”

This year we reached out to both volunteers and volunteer supervisors to talk about their experience volunteering with Friends of Strong, and the positive impact they bring to our organization.

Mark Halladay began volunteering in October 2023 in the lobby at Sawgrass Surgical Guest Services, helping patients and families to find their way through the building. His favorite experiences have been directing visitors to locations they were unsure of, helping some with transportation services, talking with those waiting, and helping staff by returning wheelchairs to departmental locations. He thanks Friends of Strong for the opportunity to be helpful to both guests and staff.

Orthopaedic Guest Services Supervisor Teaira Pittman would like to highlight volunteers Anne Riley-Hill and Judy Whitney. Pittman describes Anne as, “Always so bright and bubbly and just all around happy to be helping.” She says Judy is, “Always smiling and welcoming everyone…always looking to help wherever the need is.”

Anne absolutely loves volunteering at the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation near Marketplace Mall. She says “I absolutely LOVE my job! I work under really GREAT individuals who have mentored me and given me guidance and support to ensure I give the clients the best experience when they walk through the doors.” Her favorite experience is helping and greeting people when they arrive. “You meet so many folks that have physical limitations and are trying their best just make it to their appointment. It is truly a pleasure to help them and hopefully make their day a better one.”

For Judy, volunteering in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation has been a fulfilling experience. She enjoys interacting with the patients and the staff. Her favorite memory is helping others in their time of need. She states, “I had a lady who walked from the parking lot with a cane but seemed in distress to walk any further, so I offered to get a wheelchair and she had a smile on her face which made my day.”

Four volunteersChild and Adolescent Psychiatry Supervisor Lara Walker wanted to shout out Ryan Song, who has been “highlighted by many of our staff and patients as someone they really like working with. Our activities therapist and many patients have commented on this particular volunteer, and I would like to recognize them for their work and dedication to our patients!”

Child Life Supervisors Chris Tryon and Toshiko Nonaka highlighted volunteers Rachel Blumberg, Nancy Jennings, and Stephanie Jeffers. Chris emphasized that each of these volunteers, “Goes above and beyond every day. They are often our calm amid our busy days meeting the play, emotional, and educational needs of our patients. They are willing to help with absolutely anything we need from cleaning toys, to sitting with a lonely, bored, or fearful baby, child, or teen. They are reliable, flexible, compassionate, and tireless.”

Rachel Blumberg has been volunteering in the PICU at URMC for the past three years, noting that “it has been so rewarding to make a difference in the lives of the children and bring them joy when they are having a tough day.” Her favorite experience was holding an infant patient, and they went from crying to being comforted and falling asleep. Rachel said, “It really made me feel like I was making a difference.”

Strong West Supervisor Jill Paladino would like to recognize four volunteers who have been with Strong West since its inception in August 2014. “When we officially started the program, these individuals were the very first to sign up. They played a huge role in the success of not only the volunteer program here, but also the success of Strong West. In 2014, they helped to welcome the community into this new ambulatory care facility. They made sure our patients felt valued and cared for, and they greeted the staff, both returning (from Lakeside) and new, with open arms. These volunteers continue to serve in the same way today.  They are so invested and dedicated to their community; it’s truly been inspiring to be a part of.”

Chris Mazzarella first began volunteering at Lakeside Memorial Hospital with her late husband and hero Jack, then started volunteering at Strong West. She notes that volunteering “…is a good way to think about others and realize everyone has problems whether physical or emotional. Sometimes the people with the most physical problems are the most cheerful and grateful.”

For every holiday and change of season, Chris updates a flower basket in the Main Lobby.  It’s one of the first things people see when they enter Strong West, and it often brightens their day. Her favorite experience, other than feeling appreciated by the staff, was when “a man insisted he had an appointment on the fourth floor. I showed him where the elevators were and let him draw his own conclusions. When he was leaving, he sheepishly apologized.” Chris loves reading and doing crossword puzzles, and she is grateful for her family and little dog Annie. She was also the recipient of the 2015 Friends of Strong Hettie Shumway Role Model Award.

Prior to Strong West, Charlie McCullough volunteered at Lakeside Memorial Hospital for more than twenty years. He volunteers on Sundays in the emergency department, right after church. He almost never misses a Sunday volunteer shift, even if it’s a holiday or bad weather. He has seen the great work the emergency staff does daily, has witnessed lives being saved and is grateful to help and be part of it all. He says “It has been a great experience. The people at Strong West are great to see in action. With the many years of volunteering, I have hundreds of wonderful memories. They are the best.” Charlie loves his family, motorcycles, and working hard. He is also a volunteer fireman with the Brockport Fire Department and has served with them since 1961.

Carol Ennis is quick to offer suggestions that might make the patient experience better. She loves “how appreciative people are when they walk into a place they have never been.” She adores her family and is especially proud of her three grandchildren. She was the 2019 recipient of the Friends of Strong Dove Award.

Paul Sugar’s wife was an ICU Nurse at Lakeside Memorial, where Paul began volunteering before Strong West. He feels fortunate to be part of the professional, committed, and exceptional staff team at Strong West. Paul’s favorite volunteering memory was when he became the "patient" during an Ebola emergency training drill. “It was quite interesting and educational to see the various steps the staff has to go through to prepare for such an emergency.”

Paul is a weather hobbyist and enjoys building steampunk lamps, watching soccer, and baking, bringing delicious treats for staff every week. In 2015, he received the Friends of Strong Dove Award, and in 2023 he received a Certificate of Excellence Award from the Multiplying Good Organization for his volunteering service. Paul says “I am constantly reminded of how fortunate it is to have an emergency facility in Brockport, and all the good the people do here for the community. It is difficult to put into words how much I appreciate the compassion and dedication the staff commit every day. Volunteering truly gives one a different prospective on healthcare....and this experience at Strong West has given me an enormous awareness and fulfillment in my life.”

Five volunteersFriends of Strong Gift Shop manager Doreen Edwards thanks her two volunteers Georgia LoCicero and Janine Lyons who are “…very pleasant to be around. They are always willing to help. They love helping when the order comes in and making deliveries to patients. They work wonderfully together and if one leaves the other picks right up. It’s like having one person.”


Janine let us know that “volunteering at Strong has been very fulfilling.” She enjoys coming weekly and meeting new people whenever she has a shift.

Georgia has many favorite volunteering experiences. She says “I especially enjoy every interaction with patients and/or their visitors. I have been honored and privileged to listen and share in their joys and sorrows, to offer kindness or a smile, and help appropriately with some of their needs. For me, the pleasure of serving is returned to me always as a heartwarming, rewarding, and satisfying experience.” When asked about working with Friends of Strong, Georgia told us “…it is a great opportunity to be of service to others, and to meet many kind, caring, supportive, and personable people. The entire staff is always friendly and helpful. They answer questions, offer suggestions, listen well, and help in sundry situations. It is truly amazing to be part of this organization.”

Several staff members in the Strong Surgical Center, including Supervisor Sandra Price, would like to recognize volunteer Kristy KC. “Kristy volunteers on a regular basis, always arriving consistently, with an eagerness to help. She greets each team member with a warm smile and a welcome hello. While volunteering, she restocks supplies, discharges patients safely, talks with families, and is always willing to help wherever needed. While Kristy helps, nurses can offer more patient-centered care at the bedside, knowing other patients are coming and going and their comfort needs are being met. Kristy is kind and gentle-mannered.”

Sandra emphasized that Kristy “always comes to the SSC with a smile and great attitude. If she's not busy running patients to Discharge, I usually find her stocking, organizing, and even checking on call bells and communicating patient needs to staff. I'm always impressed with how Kristy carries herself and her professional, yet friendly manner. She is a pleasure to work with and I look forward to seeing her on my shifts.”

Lynne Sturnick, Stacey Makubire and the rest of the Sawgrass Surgical Team asked to shoutout their entire team of volunteers. Lynne says, “They are all so awesome…everyone is dedicated to being here every week.” Stacey emphasized that their volunteers always “…arrive as scheduled with a smile. They greet our patients, making them feel welcomed, and help them way find. They are a huge asset to our patient experiences at Sawgrass.”

So many departments at URMC see positive impacts day after day because of volunteer involvement. The Friends of Strong team is incredibly grateful for every volunteer who has ever walked these halls. We wanted to reach out with heartfelt appreciation. Thank you to those who give of themselves freely, for the good of the community around them. We wouldn’t be here without all of you.

“This week – and every day – we hope you can join us in thanking these wonderful people for volunteering at URMC,” adds Sandy Arbasak, director of Friends of Strong.

Emily A. Teitsworth | 4/22/2024

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