They’re not called Candy Stripers anymore, nor are Marshall Hospital’s volunteers known as Pink Ladies, past titles based on their distinctive outfits. And despite the burgundy uniforms worn today, they laughingly say they prefer not to be dubbed “Winos.”
Instead, these volunteers who provide a vital service for Marshall Medical Center are jacks and jills of all stripe, a rainbow of personalities and helpful hands who pride themselves on their work.
The number of volunteers at Marshall’s facilities in Placerville and Cameron Park hovers at 90 currently, which is fewer than preferred. Usually there are nearly 120 caring folks who lend a hand, and to bolster that number, the hospital’s next volunteer drive is set for Wednesday, May 14.
The Marshall Hospital Auxiliary, in existence for 55 years, is the umbrella organization for the volunteers, who for decades have done everything from throwing highly successful fundraisers to providing incredibly comforting warm blankets to patients.
“They staff the information desk, the gift shop, help in outpatient services, surgery, the Emergency Room — restocking supplies, changing gurneys, keeping up with the blankets,” said Mary O’Brien, who became a Marshall volunteer 13 years ago.
“The volunteers are mostly women and we could really use more men; we have about 10 now,” she added.
There’s not much heavy lifting but lifting spirits is a big part of the job, according to volunteer Roxanne Sackett.
“We’re always ready with a smile,” said Sackett, who began volunteering three years ago and now is president of the auxiliary.
Sackett said one of the reasons she decided to lend her skills to Marshall was “to give back.”
“I had a friend who died here and the hospital staff was so very good to us and the family,” she said simply.
That quality of care extended itself later, when two years ago Sackett was struck by a rattlesnake after stepping out onto her front lawn at her home on Lotus Road. In addition to initial treatment of the snakebite, she returned to Marshall’s care when her platelet count was extremely low, an apparent reaction to the reptile’s venom.
“The treatment I got at Marshall was outstanding,” Sackett said.
The volunteer paused for a moment as she watched O’Brien come from around the information desk, intercepting a visitor carrying a bouquet of bright flowers. Pointing down a nearby hallway, O’Brien set the woman on the right path to find her friend.
“We help visitors find where they’re going, plus we keep track of the patients, who’s coming and who’s going,” said O’Brien.
When visitors arrive at the hospital and suddenly realize they forgot to pick up flowers or candy for the patient they’re visiting — no worries.
More volunteers are at the ready, inside the hospital’s gift shop that not only is packed with plenty of presents but boasts prices that compete with other area gift shops.
Just ask volunteer Norma Wilson, who has been purchasing for Marshall’s gift shop for seven years and has been an auxiliary member for 11.
“It’s a challenge coming up with the right things to order,” said Wilson, “but purchasing for the gift shop is one of the things I really enjoy.”
“She does a fantastic job at it, too,” Sackett interjected.
“We have everything here, from fresh-cut flowers to candy and stuffed animals, wall art, jewelry — it’s too bad that people don’t realize it’s the best gift shop in Placerville,” Wilson continued.
The volunteer added that a common misconception about the hospital gift shop is that it’s more expensive to shop there, with visitors often making a pit stop at another shop before coming to visit patients at Marshall because they think prices will be steeper.
“Come and give us a try,” Wilson said. “You’ll probably be surprised.”
The inventory includes distinctive night lights in the shape of flowers, the ever-popular See’s candy and a selection of T-shirts with clever sayings such as, “Chocolate fixes everything.” No argument there.
Volunteers are important
Marshall Medical Center would be an entirely different operation without the strength of its volunteer force, which put in 30,000 hours last year and raised $58,000 for the hospital.
Hospital Administrator James Whipple understands the value of those who give their own time in order to serve others by joining Marshall Medical Auxiliary.
“Quite simply, Marshall wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the auxiliary,” said Whipple. “They have been around since the inception of the hospital and were part of the group to raise funds and advocate for building Marshall Hospital 55 years ago. The Marshall Auxiliary lends a hand to several hospital departments, from the Emergency Room to the patient floors, bringing patients blankets, something to drink — or just keeping them company.”
Whipple said the fundraising events thrown annually by the volunteers bring the hospital a check of about $60,000 each year, every year.
“The funds have been a significant source of revenue to fund medical equipment and even the hospital’s new south wing.”
The auxiliary’s biggest annual fundraiser “Wine and Roses” is set for Sept. 20 this year.
The hospital administrator added that he knows there is virtually always a need for more folks to join the volunteer auxiliary and he encourages those considering it to take the leap.
“If you want to be part of a group that truly serves people when they are most vulnerable, volunteer with the Marshall Auxiliary,” he said. “You’ll never regret it.”
Volunteers are asked to commit to serving 50 hours a year, with shifts running four hours a day, either from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. or from 1-5 p.m. Some Saturday duty is available, if preferred, and the only cost is a small membership fee and the purchase of the dandy wine-colored smock.
O’Brien said many volunteers find they are serving as many as 500 hours a year, by choice of course, and she added that she herself put in nearly 600 last year.
“There are three or four of us who put in that much because we enjoy it,” she added.
Some volunteers may find they are helping out in the lobby of the new Emergency Room, where an attractive plaque display on one wall explains that the auxiliary raised half-a-million dollars over the last eight years.
Roswell Larsen of Camino said he enjoys helping out in the new ER and after volunteering for six years is now chairman of the ER volunteers.
“If you want to work and make a difference, there’s plenty to do,” he assured.
“It’s not just a social club,” said O’Brien, to which her co-volunteer Roxanne Sackett said, “But it is a lot of fun — just look who I met here” as she threw an arm around O’Brien’s shoulder.
To learn more about volunteering with the Marshall Auxiliary call 530-622-2643. Remember, the next training session is coming up Wednesday, May 14.