Volunteers celebrate 1 million hours of service at UT Southwestern University Hospitals

Volunteers Elizabeth 'Libby' Duff (left) and Jeannette Lynch celebrate the millionth hour of service with Dr. John Warner, assistant vice president for University Hospitals planning.

DALLAS – Jan. 19, 2011 – Volunteers at UT Southwestern University Hospitals & Clinics achieved a milestone in January when their accumulated efforts topped 1 million hours of service. The diversified group, ranging in age from 14 to 93, has helped out in more than 40 departments.

“Volunteering is truly a selfless gift that makes a difference in so many ways,” said the Rev. Mark Buchanan, manager of Volunteer Services. “Our volunteers are incredible individuals who have given so much of their time and energy. To know this progression toward a million hours has been going on for more than 60 years takes my breath away.”

Jeannette Lynch, who completed the millionth hour of service on Jan. 5, became part of Volunteer Services in 2007 and is a Eucharistic minister who assists Catholic patients at both University Hospital - St. Paul and University Hospital - Zale Lipshy. The millionth hour was calculated by the Rev. Buchanan and Scott Glover, administrative assistant for Volunteer Services, through historical records and documentation.  

The history of volunteerism at the University Hospitals began Feb. 13, 1943. That year the newly created St. Paul Auxiliary made pajamas, bed linens, bedpan covers, baby materials, blankets, masks and surgical caps for the hospital.

Kay Neuhoff, a longtime member of the auxiliary, has been volunteering at the University Hospitals since 1968 and continues to work shifts on Thursdays in the University Hospital - St. Paul gift shop. She and Stella Bressler, who joined the auxiliary in 1969, have logged more hours than any other volunteers. Mrs. Bressler and her late husband, C.E. “Breeze” Bressler, were the first couple to volunteer together at the hospital. In 2009 the auxiliary dissolved due to an aging membership and fewer volunteers to fill leadership positions. Many members, however, have remained involved with Volunteer Services.  

“Every morning I wake up thankful for the opportunity to give back,” Mrs. Bressler said. “It’s amazing how much the program has grown over the years. I love seeing college and even high school students volunteering. I cannot think of a better place to be.”

Hilary Misdom, now a freshman in the College of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati, became involved with Chaplain Services on weekends while in high school.

“It’s really special to be part of a program rooted in helping others that has reached a million hours of service,” she said. “It inspires me to know that so many people have that passion to invest their time to assist others.”

High school student Julia Hyder began volunteering at University Hospital – St. Paul as part of the Garland ISD Health Occupations Students of America organization. The program is designed for students seeking entrance into some area of the medical field. Ms. Hyder, who has volunteered in 40 departments at University Hospitals, became interested in medicine after donating bone marrow for her sister, who has battled leukemia.   

“Everyone in Volunteer Services maintains five principles of volunteering: respect, care, compassion, concern and empathy,” said the Rev. Buchanan. “No job is too big or too small.”

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Slideshow: Photos by David Gresham

While studying for the Medical College Admission Test, Ahmed Abughazaleh began volunteering at the fourth-floor day surgery desk. A Dallas resident, Mr. Abughazaleh researched local volunteer programs and was thrilled to come across opportunities at UT Southwestern. He credits the Rev. Buchanan and Mr. Glover with making it enjoyable to come in for a shift and for creating an atmosphere where volunteers reach their potential.

“I attended to families in the waiting room,” said Mr. Abughazaleh. “It was always a great feeling when someone thanked me personally for making that wait better.”        

Sometimes being a patient or watching a loved one being treated inspires individuals to volunteer. Gerry McKenzie became involved after her husband, Bill, passed away at what was then St. Paul Medical Center. Mrs. McKenzie was so touched by the care her spouse received that she was eager to engage with the hospital community. Mrs. McKenzie said knowing she made someone smile or gave them comfort keeps her coming back to volunteer in Chaplain Services.  

Betty Laury, assistant manager for the St. Paul gift shop, says having volunteers in the shop and other areas has been inspiring.

“They make people feel valued,” she said. “Through a greeting, smile or just talking, volunteers are incredibly important to our hospitals.”

The Rev. Buchanan added: “It is impossible to measure how much of a difference our volunteers have made in the lives of others and in our community. I cannot wait to see what the next million hours of service accomplishes.”


Media Contact: Russell Rian

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