Winn Army Community Hospital leaders recognized 500 volunteer members during an April 23 ceremony that celebrated the volunteers’ continuous support over the past year.
“We wanted to recognize both soldiers and community members who decided of their own volition to spend their most precious resource — their time — on things that are important to them and the community,” Commander Col. Ronald Place said. “To me, that is a powerful statement of what is important to people, and we need to recognize that.”
Winn is staffed by about 2,000 employees who handle the day-to-day operations and patient care. Volunteers assist wherever they are needed, sometimes as hospital greeters or in specific departments if they are trained.
“Medicine is all about service, and the Army is also about service,” Place said. “That extra courtesy or the extra special touch leads to wellness and healing … that is what healthcare is supposed to be all about.”
The cumulative volunteer support hours between soldiers and civilians added up to about 21,000 hours over the past year.
“These volunteers bring many skills, new views, new ideas, excitement and happiness to the hospital community,” volunteer support director Brigitte Shanken said. “Something as simple as a smile makes a difference.”
Shanken started the volunteer program in 1999 with fewer than 10 people. Today it has grown to more than 500.
“These recognitions are priceless,” Shanken said. “There are no gifts or compensation that we can give them for volunteering, so the least we can do is to thank them for all they do for us and our patients.”
She says their volunteers go the extra mile to help patients because they want to be there, not because they are required to be there.
“Many of them say volunteering is self-rewarding,” Shanken said. “These are the great types of volunteers we have … they really enjoy being here.”
For volunteer Steve Hunnicutt, volunteering is just that.
“I like to support the soldiers,” said Hunnicutt, a Navy veteran who lives in Richmond Hill. “This is just my way to give back to the community and to the soldiers.”
Hunnicutt has volunteered at the hospital for a year and now helps out in the radiology department taking X-rays. He recently graduated from Ogeechee Technical College with a radiologic technician degree. He did a few clinical rotations as a student, and after he graduated, he decided to go back as a clinical volunteer.
“This is a great way to interact with the patients,” he said. “I’ve made great human connections.”
Hunnicutt volunteers through the Red Cross, which means the service doesn’t stop at the hospital. These volunteers, soldiers and community members also help out around the surrounding counties.
They participate in Keep Liberty Beautiful, an education and volunteer action program dedicated to community improvement, by picking up litter on the side of the road. They also support the Homeless Connect Project, which helps homeless people connect with services.
“I believe we have to engage in our community and focus on making a difference anywhere we can,” Shanken said. “We have such a great relationship between our military and the local community, it is a wonderful partnership.”
Shanken and volunteers also help out at local schools, mainly the First Presbyterian Christian Academy, and they give time to the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin and nursing homes.
“I tell my volunteers to picture themselves in the patient’s situation,” Shanken said. “How would you like to be treated? What would you like people to do for you?”
Sgt. Sylvia Winn, a medical detachment soldier, was recognized during the ceremony for her five years of service at the hospital and in the community.
She believes it is important for soldiers to maintain a good standing in the community.
“You have to be willing to get out there and talk to people,” she said. “I want them to know, hey, I am here to help in whatever capacity you need me to … what do you need? I am here for you.”
Winn comes from a long line of selfless service, and the fact that she shares a name with the hospital is not just a coincidence. Her grandfather's cousin was stationed at Fort Stewart during World War II as a surgeon, and the hospital was named after him for his service.
“Volunteering is not about what you get,” she said. “It is about the smile on the little kid’s face at the school, or singing a Christmas carol to a veteran at the hospital; it is all about helping other people.”