Degenstein Named Hospital Auxiliary Volunteer of 2021 | News, Sports, Jobs


Sue Sitter/PCT Good Samaritan Hospital Association Members of the Auxiliary Council pose for a photo during their Volunteer of the Year awards luncheon held May 19. From the back row, left to right, are Laurie Odden, Marge Heilman and Shelley Block, volunteer coordinator for Heart of America Medical Center. In the middle, left to right, are Terry Jacobson, Bev Paul and Marlene Schaan. Front row, left to right, Vonnie Degenstein, Gerry Brenno, Susan Anderson and Diane Leier. Absent from the photo is Board member Harriet Kreklau.

A volunteer who “goes back and forth like the Energizer Bunny” received the 2021 Volunteer of the Year award from the Good Samaritan Hospital Association Auxiliary at a luncheon held May 19 at First Lutheran Church.

“I don’t know where she gets her batteries, but I need them. » Shelley Block, volunteer coordinator at the Heart of America Medical Center, said of Vonnie Degenstein, as she presented Degenstein with a potted plant wrapped in cellophane.

“(Degenstein) has been on the Auxiliary Council since 1999”, Block said.

“She’s been our treasurer since 2000. She presided over the raffle – I don’t know how many years,” she added. “She makes the salad lunch and decorates every table. She helps everywhere.

Degenstein said she vowed to volunteer full-time after retiring from her job for The Pierce County Tribune more than 20 years ago.

To block; Becky Hershey, director of palliative and long-term care services at HAMC; and Marlene Schaan, Chair of the Auxiliary Board, all praised the many volunteers at the hospital.

The volunteers came from a variety of backgrounds ranging from cosmetology to nursing and more.

“We have people who come and they accompany people throughout the hospital,” said Hershey. “You walk in and run Bingo. You walk in and have a birthday party.

She added, “You come to greet people at the door or do your hair or hold the hand of someone at the end of their life. I can’t even name all the things people walk in and do.

Hershey thanked the volunteers who, in the pre-COVID-19 days, faithfully ferried residents of long-term care facilities to church services.

“I took it for granted until in one day it all came to a halt,” she says. “That moment when there were no more volunteers in our building had a profound impact not only on me, but on all of our staff and residents. I didn’t know how much I appreciated you and how grateful I am to have you until we couldn’t have you anymore.

Schaan thanked the volunteers for their support in fundraising activities such as a salad lunch, May Day baskets, dessert sales and raffles.

She said the auxiliary and volunteers helped raise $15,000 for the fundraising campaign to build a new hospital; $2,100 for wheelchair cushions for a care center; $2,500 through the Twice Blessed campaign for a new ambulance; $1,500 for new images for the clinic walls; $4,100 for air mattresses for the care center.

“So over $26,000 was donated to HAMC thanks to all of us,” Schaan said.

The group also listened to a video message from HAMC CEO Erik Christenson. He apologized for not coming in person, adding that he was out of town to attend a leadership meeting with the North Dakota Hospital Association.

“Thank you Shelley for all you do – your amazing job leading and coordinating all of the volunteer services,” he told Block. “You are dynamic; you are active and your personality uplifts everyone. I appreciate all you do for the volunteers and the organization.

“You just change the environment with your electricity. It makes our days better,” he added.

CHAP Chaplain Gary Dorn gave a blessing before lunch.

“I never thought of Shelley as ‘electric'” he joked before he started, “but it looks pretty good.”

Block said the Auxiliary’s theme for 2022 was “Better together.”

She told the group that she prayed for inspiration for a theme, “And then it hit me,” she says. “We’re better because of everything you do, every perk we give, we’re better because you all come to our perks. We are better because of you volunteering for the hospice. You sit with these patients. You are holding hands. You read to them. You do their hair.

Block and Hershey each thanked God for His help at different times, reflecting the hospital’s heritage as an organization founded by churches in the Pierce County area.

Block also congratulated Lois Volk for being selected as the 2020 HAMC Volunteer of the Year.

“She came every Wednesday to bring our residents to mass,” she said of Volk, adding that she regrets not being able to honor him more formally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Block said the hospital and Haaland Estates still had restrictions on volunteers, employees were happy to see them back in their more limited roles.

“We miss you,” she says. “We are better thanks to you.”

After lunch, she described some of the limits still in place at the hospital on volunteers.

“We have one-on-one volunteers with residents (of the care center) to do their nails or visit them, but they must wear masks and keep their masks on,” Block said. “There’s really no one left to help, so to speak.”

She noted that volunteers working at the hospital’s gift shop, admissions area or eye surgery area must also wear masks at all times. The same restrictions apply to volunteers working one-on-one with patients and residents.

“But, we catch (volunteers) wherever we can,” Block said. “We don’t want to lose them.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve learned different ways to use our volunteers, which has been wonderful. Some appreciate these new ways even more,” she added.


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