SIOUX CENTER—Retirees tend to have plenty of free time, and for many, volunteering helps keep them engaged and active in their communities.
Volunteers are a valued part of personnel at Sioux Center Health as they take on a variety of tasks that help not only hospital staff but patients and their visitors as well.
The hospital has more than 100 volunteers, with about 90 percent of them being retirees, according to Deb Hulstein, Sioux Center Health’s volunteer and gift shop manager.
“They enjoy it just as much as other people appreciate their services,” Hulstein said. “It makes you feel good.”
Volunteering, Hulstein said, helps hospital staff fulfill their mission of bringing hope, health and healing to others. It puts volunteers’ talents and experience to work for a good cause, enriching the lives of others and making an impact in the community.
People may volunteer in a number of roles at the hospital. They can act as greeters to welcome patients or visitors, escort or direct people to their destinations, or work at the gift shop and assist with purchases.
Hospice volunteers provide a comforting and supporting presence, listen to patient concerns and provide spiritual and bereavement support.
Crown Pointe and Franken Manor volunteers assist with a variety of activities and accompany staff and residents at the senior-living facilities on community outings while Royale Meadows volunteers assist with one-on-one visitations with residents, read to residents and assist with various activities such as Bible studies and musical performances.
Some volunteers work behind the scenes by knitting caps for newborns while those with musical inclinations can play the piano at the hospital.
Eighty-five-year-old Shirley Matheis is among volunteers Sioux Center Health, having worked at the hospital since its new facility was constructed five years ago. She works at the hospital’s gift shop.
“Somebody recruited me when they took care of my husband when he was with hospice care,” Matheis said.
“I really enjoy meeting all these people, and I have some good supervisors here. They’re very accommodating,” she said. “It’s a fun place. It makes you feel a part of life yet.”
Volunteering has been a big part of her life ever since she retired in December 1999.
“I was thinking about what I was going to do with my time,” Matheis said.
She views this as a service to the hospital and its staff as well as the people who come to the hospital.
Even though it is not paid work, it is appreciated work, Matheis said.
“They appreciate you so much. That’s worth a lot,” she said. “All the volunteering I do, I get a lot of appreciation, and that’s more than any money you could earn.”
Matheis does more volunteering besides the hospital, with her work with National Alliance on Mental Illness particularly close to her heart.
“I’m very thankful for the volunteering I can do,” Matheis said. “I’m very healthy, and I’m so happy I can do it. Not everybody can.
“I would recommend volunteering,” she said. “It’s a really good time. I would say this is the best time of my life because there are so many good things and things to be thankful for.”
Hulstein has been thankful for the work of the volunteers, especially for the robust work ethic they bring.
“They’re more diligent about that and showing up at work when some of the younger ones might say they don’t feel like it today,” Hulstein said.
The amount of time a volunteer puts in varies with the individual. Some come in twice a week or on a certain day while others are able to put in extra hours when others have to cancel their times.
“I try to work with them and what works for their schedules,” Hulstein said. “I try to put them in a place where they’re interested. The gift shop takes a bit more work. You have to run a cash register, and that’s all on screen, which can be a challenge for some. We try to find where they best fit.”
Although there is some turnover as the volunteers age and leave their volunteer spots behind, Hulstein usually does not have to search hard for additional volunteers.
She finds that volunteers come to her looking for a role at the hospital just as much as she advertises. Part of that might be word-of-mouth from volunteers talking with their friends.
There is a fine line in managing the number of volunteers. If there are too many volunteers, some might not be called inasmuch as they would like. But too few volunteers might mean more scrambling to fill in certain times or asking too much of volunteers.
“We have a few snowbirds,” Hulstein said. “So, January, February and March, I’m down a few volunteers. But it’s great, and we work with their schedules and find a few others to fill in.”