Voluntary service is notably one of the most important dimensions of philanthropy and means by which society participates in voluntary action for the public good. It is about giving the gift of one’s self: a precious gift of one’s time, labor, or expertise for the benefit of others.
It is often said that time is more precious than money. As such, so can the gift of service be more generous than a gift of money. This generosity in personal commitment has been at the core of Day Kimball Hospital since its inception and what continues to serve as the foundation for enriching the quality of everyday life of the patients and those who care for them.
If not for the voluntary actions of Mrs. Day Kimball to bring together a like-minded coalition of community volunteers, her vision for a community hospital may never have come to fruition. Formation of a voluntary governing Board of Trustees in 1894 was followed quickly by the formation of a voluntary Woman’s Board in the same year who took it upon themselves to raise auxiliary funds for the hospital. It would take hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individuals since then on voluntary boards and committees to assist leadership with governance, fundraising, and social responsibilities to fulfill the mission of the hospital and its healthcare system. That commitment of community volunteers continues to assist in these roles today, as well as playing an integral part in advancing patient engagement and quality care.
Ways To Get Involved
Volunteer opportunities abound at DKH. Volunteers can work in 27 different departments across the organization, complimenting paid staff and those who provide core patient services. Led by Volunteer Services Coordinator, Janet Johnson, they assist in many ways, including escorting patients and visitors; running errands, delivering newspapers, cards, flowers, and medications; and providing clerical assistance in offices. Volunteers organize and manage the ‘Comfort Cart,’ bringing free items to patients in the hospital such as magazines, cards, puzzles, lip balm and other small personal items. Our Hospice volunteers offer respite to the patient’s caregiver; provide transportation for patients and family members; run errands or grocery shop; plant gardens; offer massage, reflexology or healing touch; take photos; make decorative pins to commemorate loved ones; and fundraise for special needs of the patients.
The Junior Volunteer program engages local high school students in a 7-week program during the summer. The application process begins in January and students must have completed their freshman year to apply. The first 50 applicants are interviewed for up to 25 slots, depending upon needs. Junior volunteers do the same work as adult escort volunteers, work in departments on special projects, and engage in a fundraising activity to benefit a department of their choosing. They are led by a 4-year, home-grown veteran of the program, Elizabeth Jezierski.
There are currently 134 active adult hospital volunteers and 60 junior volunteers. These numbers do not include other organized volunteer groups such as the 4WD volunteers who help to provide transportation during inclement weather; the Friends of Hospice Committee; Eucharistic Ministers; and Spiritual Care Committee members. Groups of students from the Regional Transition Program at Eastconn come in weekly and assemble charts for various departments. Our youngest volunteers are 15 years of age, and up until recently, our eldest was 98. The DKH community lost a dear friend and long-time volunteer with the passing of Cliff Buttermark this past fall – role model and mentor to young and old in service above self.
Additional Areas to Be of Service
We continually seek volunteers to help in our Development Office with annual appeals, clerical duties, mailings and event preparation. There are a number of opportunities to serve on volunteer committees that plan and assist with events including the annual golf tournament to support the hospital; the annual race and walk, Cruisin’ for Cancer Care, and winetasting events that support the NE CT Cancer Fund; and the annual auction and Tree of Life Ceremony, both of which benefit Hospice and Palliative Care.
The Woman’s Board, currently led by President Nancy Dziki, has grown to 250 members since its founding in 1894, and continues to support the hospital by raising funds for needed equipment and programs. Funds are raised through the DKH gift shop which is operated by the Woman’s Board and staffed solely by volunteers, as well as through a series of annual events including a Valentine Dance, ladies golf tournament, and spring luncheon to name a few. They continue to seek new members in support of these and other community engagement activities that will help them achieve their annual goals.
People volunteer for any number of reasons: to help others, promote a worthy cause, meet new people, gain experience, develop new skills, give back to the community, or because it simply feels good. Whether altruistically motivated or in self-interest, volunteering is an expression of commitment to the hospital and the community. Volunteers are invaluable: as members of the community, our volunteers are often best attuned to what is needed to make our organization most effective in meeting community needs. In addition to assisting with service delivery, fundraising, and administrative tasks, volunteers serve as evidence of community involvement in the organization, helping us to build a foundation for social exchange and mutual trust.
Perhaps most important, is the value of a rewarding relationship and experience. There is proven research that shows that helping others brings feelings of happiness. A special report by Harvard Health Publications on healthy, happy living points out that while volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, the benefits can be even greater to the volunteer (www.helpguide.org).
The report points out four ways in which you’ll feel healthier and happier as a volunteer: 1) Volunteering connects you to others and to your community to make it a better place; 2) Volunteering is good for your mind and body. This and other studies have shown that volunteering can reduce stress, combat depression, provides a sense of purpose, and helps you stay physically healthy; 3) Volunteering may also provide an opportunity to experience a field of interest without having to make a career change or long-term commitment. It can help you get experience in an area that interests you, provide the opportunity to meet professionals in the field, and practice important skills used in the workplace; and 4) Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life, providing opportunities for renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life (www.helpguide.org).
The Payoff is Huge
While the value of volunteerism goes far beyond what can be measured in dollars and cents, the extraordinary economic impact of volunteerism is hard to ignore – nationally and close to home. According to the annual report of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), approximately 25% of all American adults volunteered through an organization in 2015 while nearly two thirds helped their neighbor in some manner. In the report, 62.6 million adults or 24.9% of the adult population volunteered in 2015, providing nearly 7.8 billion hours of service valued at nearly $184 billion. In Connecticut, 28.2% of its residents performed 81.84 million hours of service at an estimated value of $2.2 billion. The estimated average value of a volunteer in the US reached $23.56 in 2015, with Connecticut having the fourth highest value at $27.77 (The estimate is based on average hourly earnings plus 12% to allow for fringe benefits.) In 2016, DKH volunteers contributed 21,468 hours and the equivalent of over ten full time employees. If we were to apply the Connecticut average hourly value of a volunteer for 2015, that equates to approximately $566,166 for our small community hospital.
While the value that volunteerism has had on DKH over the past 123 years may be difficult to measure, its impact is clearly visible in DKH’s physical presence and role in the community. Whether a few hours or days at a time, in the short-term or the long-term, your contributions in volunteer service and commitment of time – your most valuable asset and ours, will continue to make a difference at DKH today and in the future. Please let us know how you might want to become involved by contacting Janet Johnson in Volunteer Services (860-928-6541, Ext. 2279, or Kristen Willis in the Development Office at 860-928-7141.
Do you have questions, concerns, stories to share, or topics related to philanthropy and Day Kimball Healthcare that you’d like to learn more about? Please feel free to reach out to Kristen at 860-928-7141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn about Giving to DKH
DKH Annual Fundraising Events