Volunteering to help people have fun
Kathy Jackson had tears in her eyes when she learned Columbus Community Hospital was suspending its volunteer program because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hospital leaders made the decision at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect volunteers, patients and staff.
“I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’” Jackson said. “I got teary-eyed. I’ve done this forever, and I didn’t want to give it up.”
Jackson, the longest-serving volunteer at the hospital, has donated her time and talents for 43 years. During her volunteering career, she has helped at the front desk, given tours to local groups and delivered refreshments to patients, staff and visitors. She’s also known for dressing up in fun costumes and offering patients candy, jewelry and other fun items.
Kathy said she is so very blessed to be able to help others in this way.
After the hospital halted its volunteer program, Jackson said the pandemic caused her to step away from her part-time fitness instructor position at the Columbus Family YMCA. She also had to forgo responsibilities at her own business, Jackson Services, which she and her husband Jerry own and operate with their four children, Jesse, Nikki, Jason and Justin.
“I love being around people — it’s what feeds me,” she said. “I’m very much a people person. Being away was hard for me."
To ease the transition for volunteers like Jackson, the hospital’s volunteer services department went above and beyond to help everyone feel informed and appreciated.
“Every six weeks, we sent a cute, seasonally appropriate card,” said Angie Ramaekers, director of volunteer & guest services. “Most of the cards also included a treat for volunteers.”
Those treats included coupons for bagels, coffee, ice cream cones and popcorn. In 2020, when toilet paper was hard to find in stores, the group delivered toilet paper rolls to volunteers’ homes for May Day.
“Our whole team felt a void,” Ramaekers said. “There was a period of loneliness that we felt not regularly having our volunteers in the building. We realized just how strong our passion is for our volunteers.”
Thankfully, those days are in the past. In July 2021, Jackson returned to her volunteer duties, along with approximately 140 other volunteers. When she received the call to return, she said she was thrilled.
Now, she reports to the hospital every Thursday. If you visit, you’ll probably see her serving beverages to hospital patients, visitors and staff. She also helps fill the various vending machines in the facility.
Jackson said she feels whole again and is glad volunteers are back in full force. Furthermore, she encourages everyone to try it.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” she said. “Come on over sometime and see what we have open. It’s a great way of giving back to the community and saying thank you to others.”
For more information on becoming a volunteer at Columbus Community Hospital, call 402-562-3365 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.