Whether Age 16 or 92, Marin General Hospital's Volunteers Share a Common Goal: Service to Patients, Hospital and Community

Whether Age 16 or 92, Marin General Hospital's Volunteers Share a Common Goal: Service to Patients, Hospital and Community

National Volunteer Week, April 12 - 18

GREENBRAE, CA — In 1950, a group of women in the community, known as Marin General Hospital’s Founders Auxiliary, organized and began raising money for the new Marin General Hospital which would open two years later in 1952. Sixty-five years later, the volunteer organization has expanded not only in numbers but also in the depth and breadth of the services they provide to patients and staff.

More than 200 men, women and teens, aged 16 to 92, volunteer in almost every area of the hospital, assisting patients and staff, stocking supplies, answering phones, visiting patients, doing administrative and clerical work in support of patient care, being liaisons to family in the Emergency Department or surgical areas, greeting visitors, providing information and hospitality services, delivering books and magazines, working in the hospital’s retail gift shops, and more.

In addition to providing volunteer services throughout the hospital, the organization including the Raccoon Fundraising Branch (headquartered in Tiburon/Belvedere), continues their original fundraising mission. Donations, charitable events as well as proceeds from the hospital’s volunteer-run retail operations, support a number of patient care projects and provide scholarships to community members and staff.

Volunteers range from high school and college students, to employed professionals and retirees. The reasons for volunteering are varied, from teens wanting to learn more about health care careers, to adults wanting to give back to the community, to retirees wanting to stay active and engaged.

“Volunteers play an important role in areas of patient care, education and community outreach and are recognized as a vital component of the patient-focused, people-centered care for which Marin General Hospital is known,” says Regina Thomas, coordinator of volunteers. “The services they provide support the professional staff, freeing their time to provide the highest quality of patient care.”

A few volunteers and their stories:

Bill Caddell, 92, Tiburon: Bill spends two days a week at Marin General Hospital’s Cardiac Specialty Unit where for the past eight years he’s been visiting heart patients; sharing information, giving encouragement and showing by example that recovery and a long life are possible after heart surgery. Bill had bypass surgery himself 23 years ago at the hospital and was visited then by volunteers from the Mended Hearts organization. He stayed active in Mended Hearts for a while after his surgery but didn’t renew an active interest until 2007 when his wife passed away. According to Bill, because he was in good health, he wanted to “give something back” to heart patients, similar to what volunteers had done for him years earlier.

Barbara Birnhaum, Larkspur: For Barbara, the hospital’s surgical waiting room is a second home. In her volunteer role, Barbara makes families feel comfortable while they wait for someone in surgery, and acts as communications liaison between the families and the doctor during and after surgery. Barbara is likely a familiar face to many Marin County families – she’s been doing this job for the past 38 years ever since she joined the volunteer organization after her daughter started kindergarten.

Joan Livingston, Mill Valley: Joan has also specialized in one area of service over the 25 years she has been a volunteer. Joan works in the Emergency Department, making sure supplies are always at hand and doing what she can to help anxious patients feel more comfortable including dispensing smiles, which always seem to help, she says.

Jim Paullin, Lagunitas: Jim has amassed more than 11,000 hours of volunteer service over the past 25 years. How? Jim has a steady job at the hospital’s outpatient surgery center, greeting patients and families, helping with pre-surgery preparations, but he doesn’t stop there. In addition to serving as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus during holidays, Jim runs a once-a-month bake sale at the hospital’s Greenbrae Grill, with contributions from the volunteers Friendship Branch members. Earning the nickname “Mr. Pie,” Jim contributes 12 to 15 homemade pies to the sale every month himself.

Other longtime members include Ruth King, Novato, 6,186 hours and Marlene Dlouhy-Marin, San Anselmo, 1,100 hours. Each has also been with the organization for 25 years.

Facts at a glance

  • Marin General Hospital’s volunteers were founded in 1950
  • The organization celebrates 65 years of service in 2015
  • Adult members: 180
  • Teen members: 30. High schools represented are Redwood, Marin Catholic, Tamalpais, Urban School in SF, Drew, Tamiscal, Drake, Marin Academy, San Dominico, Marin Oaks, Marin School
  • Volunteer hours donated since 1950: 2,689,700
  • Funds awarded in scholarships over 65 years: $600,000
  • Total funds given to Marin General Hospital: $5 million