Helping Hands: Medical Center Auxiliary celebrates 50 years of service

dminty@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 28, 2013 

Auxiliary volunteers celebrate 50 years of helping patients and medical staff

This month the Medical Center Auxiliary celebrates its 50th anniversary. For some, the volunteer group, which supports patients and staff at the Medical Center and Columbus Regional, is a family affair. Frances Duncan and daughter Beth Parsons are both Auxiliary volunteers and each as served as president of the group.

Frances is happy that her daughter shares a need to give back to the community.

"I think it's wonderful, just so she keeps in step," Frances says.

That suits Beth.

"We've just always gotten along beautifully. Probably because I do what she tells me to do," Beth says.

That sounds like good advice for any mother-daughter duo.

Frances has been an Auxiliary volunteer for 14 years. "It's how I keep my feet under me," she says. Now an associate Auxiliary member, the 92-year-old's time commitment is slightly less than that of active members but the experience is just as valuable. "I just love all the people," she says.

A lifetime of volunteer work has resulted in Frances receiving the President's Call to Service Award, which means she's volunteered for more than 4,000 hours.

Her reason for first volunteering was simple. "I wanted to participate in community life," she says.

The retired college professor spent her professional life teaching future teachers how to teach special needs students.

Daughter Beth's 30-year career was also devoted to special education. She worked for 10 years in the Muscogee County School District and was director of the Achievement Academy for 20 years.

Beth's been volunteering with the Auxiliary for 10 years. Currently, she is involved with the group's Healing Notes musical program. She plays her flute for patients and families at the Medical Center. She can often be found near the lobby elevators, playing soothing tunes as visitors come and go.

Sometimes family members have specific requests that Beth does her best to grant. Recently Beth played hymns for a critically ill patient and his family.

"Emotionally it was really difficult... but playing the flute really affected them in a positive way," she says.

Currently 285 volunteers are in the Auxiliary. It's not just a woman's group. Men are volunteers, too.

"We don't make them wear pink," Nancy Williams, director of Volunteer Services for Columbus Regional, promises.

Last year the Auxiliary hosted more than 150 special events in addition to the weekly volunteer services that each Auxiliary member performs.

Volunteers don't need medical experience. Some sit with patients at the John B. Amos Cancer Center as they receive infusions. Some are posted at information desks and in gift shops to help patients' families and friends. Some volunteer in the NICU, cleaning equipment and talking with new parents. Nursing and medical students often volunteer in the ER. Fundraising opportunities also exist.

Auxiliary volunteers find their service rewarding, Nancy says. "We have very little turnover."

Beth and Frances agree and point out that potential volunteers don't need special training and starting at a young age is helpful. All three of Beth's children volunteered in their teens.

"It's learning the work ethic," Beth says.

Nancy takes into consideration the special skills of Auxiliary members when when matching volunteers with tasks.

For example, Beth's parenting manual "The Parent Book" is sold at the gift shop to raise money for the new children's hospital.

"When my children were growing up, I told them I had 'The Parent Book.' It was given to me when they were born, and it was my manual for raising them," Beth explains on her website. "It became a great parenting tool, and I used it often. If there was any question about my rules or judgment, all I had to say was, 'It's in 'The Parent Book'."

The book didn't actual exist until she wrote it when she was waiting for her first grandchild to arrive. She wrote a book for each of her children as they became parents.

"This book is based on true stories of my children's young lives. It contains a little humor, some hard lessons and lots of practical suggestions," she says.

Information

Learn more about how to become an Auxiliary member and other volunteer activities at the Medical Center and Columbus Regional by calling 706-571-1480 or visiting www.columbusregional.com.

Get details about "The Parent Book" at parsonsparentbook.com.

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