Jackie Kraft was a teacher in Baltimore County public schools in 2001 when her husband was stricken with cancer and began undergoing treatment at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
"The care that he received was outstanding," Kraft recalled. "I said, `You know, I have to give back.' They did everything humanly possible for my husband and our family to make us feel comfortable, so I decided to become a GBMC volunteer. It was the least I could do to say thank you."
Fourteen years and more than 7,000 volunteer hours later, Kraft is still saying thank you. And she's hardly alone. GBMC has an extensive volunteer program, with some 900 people donating approximately 135,000 hours annually. Since the Hospital for the Women of Maryland, of Baltimore City joined forces with Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Charity Hospital to create GBMC 50 years ago, volunteers have provided more than 2.4 million hours of service, said Carmen C. Baeza, director of volunteer services.
"We would not be the hospital we are without our volunteers," Baeza said. "This is a community hospital and a lot of our volunteers want to give back to the community where they work and live. Many have been patients here, they've given birth to babies here, they've had family members who were taken care of here. It's very personal for them."
The medical center offers several options for volunteers, including an adult program for those willing to commit to at least four hours each week for a minimum of a year. A college student program works with college, graduate and technical school students — many of whom are interested in a medical career — willing to commit to at least four hours per week during a semester. And the high school summer program offers valuable experience for students, as well as documented community service hours.
Volunteers serve in more than 86 areas of the hospital. What's more, the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary has nearly 50 volunteers who manage the medical center's Nearly New Sale and other special events held throughout the year.
The Nearly New Sale – featuring gently used apparel, furniture, housewares and more – is a popular biannual event that raises over $250,000 each year by transforming a large GBMC building into a mock department store. "It's a little bit like Black Friday, really," Baeza said. "We had patrons waiting outside the doors at 9 o'clock the night before at our last sale in April."
In addition, volunteers help maximize sales in the Gift Shop. All told, the auxiliary raises an estimated $500,000 per year to benefit hospital services.
"Whenever there is a need in the hospital, we're there to help," Kraft said. "It's an honor."
Volunteers must undergo a background check, health screening and attend an orientation session. Anyone volunteering between December and June must also get a flu shot, which is provided at no cost.
Lieta Manistre, GBMC's assistant director of volunteer services, said the program is a success in large part because the volunteers are highly valued as members of the GBMC community. "It starts with our leadership," she said. "Our volunteers are part of the GBMC family and our volunteers are treated like part of the family."
Volunteer luncheons are common. Turkeys are provided every Thanksgiving. Praise is delivered every day.
"Someone is always thanking you and that appreciation goes a long way," Kraft said. "It's the best pay you could get."
—David Ogul, Tribune Content Solutions Writer