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MCH honors volunteers for work done through COVID shutdown

  • Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough celebrated its volunteers with a drive-through celebration on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough celebrated its volunteers with a drive-through celebration on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough celebrated its volunteers with a drive-through celebration on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough celebrated its volunteers with a drive-through celebration on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough celebrated its volunteers with a drive-through celebration on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough celebrated its volunteers with a drive-through celebration on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough celebrated its volunteers with a drive-through celebration on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/21/2021 1:44:52 PM

The third week in April holds a special meaning for Toni Gildone, Monadnock Community Hospital’s volunteer coordinator. It’s the one week a year where volunteers are nationally recognized for their efforts – even though Gildone will sing the praises of the 130 people who devote a portion of their week to the hospital any day of the year.

Typically, Gildone would make it a point to see each and every volunteer at some point during National Volunteer Week to personally thank them. But for the second year in a row that just wasn’t possible. When MCH instituted its COVID response plan last March, that meant volunteers were no longer able to work in the Window Shop, deliver mail or staff the reception desk. They had to stay home and Gildone personally called each one of them.

“That was a really hard day when we made that decision,” she said.

But the group never stopped giving their time. They just had to do it from a distance.

“We are fortunate to have over 130 volunteers as an essential part of our MCH family. Even when COVID restrictions required that we postpone the volunteer program on campus last March, many continued volunteering from home in a variety of ways. I am so grateful for our dedicated and generous volunteer family and look forward to seeing them back in their volunteer roles at the hospital soon.,” said Cyndee McGuire, President and CEO of Monadnock Community Hospital.

And to honor those who adapted and were there to support MCH since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital staff held a drive-through volunteer parade on Tuesday in honor of National Volunteer Week. Staff lined up outside the Medical Arts building waved and passed out a small gift – and simply said thank you.

“To be able to see them, give them something and let them know how much they mean to us,” Gildone said. “We have incredible volunteers. They’re just so dedicated to the hospital, the community.”

While they weren’t able to physically be at the hospital aiding in the traditional way, the volunteers baked hundreds of cookies in October, bought gifts cards at Christmas and earlier this year provided more gift cards, cooked for the casserole raffle and supplied cut flowers and plants – all in an effort to boost employee morale.

“They’ve been so generous to do it,” Gildone said. “We’re really lucky the community provides such generous support.”

Dale Russell isn’t quite sure when he started volunteering at MCH – maybe 10 or 11 years. Over that time, the fellow volunteers and staff have become like family.

“When they told us they weren’t going to have any volunteers (on campus), I think we all felt a little bit of a letdown,” Russell said.

But he still wanted to help. So he started to reach out to other volunteers he knew. He’d call three to five people a night after supper, just to check in.

“I just thought maybe this is a good thing I can do,” Russell said. He soon realized he enjoyed the conversations, some brief while others were more involved. He wanted to reach out to more of his fellow volunteers, so he asked Gildone if she could provide a list of names and phone numbers. It then turned into six or seven calls a night; others were made in the afternoon and on weekends.

“It kind of grew into a thing of its own,” Russell said. “I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”

Russell estimates he made close to 500 calls and still talks often with a couple of people he developed a relationship with. But he didn’t realize just how much it meant until he was on the receiving end of one of those calls. It was someone from the hospital who shared his affinity for railroads. The person on the other end simply asked how he was doing.

Ann Lord of Peterborough has been holding reiki clinics once a month for the last five years or so. She started doing it after her own experience with the healing therapy while undergoing radiation for breast cancer.

“I was impressed with how well it made me feel and wanted to pass that on to others,” Lord said. Like many others, she has disappointed that volunteers would not be allowed at the hospital. She misses doing her part to help others.

She baked cookies, collected gift cards and along with her husband Steven, made Shepherd’s Pie for the raffle.

“It was a small enough thing to do to help them through a challenging time – to put it mildly,” Lord said. “Whatever little we could do, we were more than happy to.”

And she credits Gildone – and others – with helping to keep volunteers engaged.

“I can’t say enough about Toni. She’s come up with such wonderful ideas,” Lord said.

Gildone said the impact of the volunteers in the hospital has never been felt as much as it has in the last year.

“They’re all over the place and do all kinds of tasks,” she said. “They do a lot of little things that really add up. And there was just this energy that was missing.”

Gildone said she’s still not sure when exactly volunteers will be allowed back in the hospital. Russell, who works in the Window Shop, is one that is counting down the days.

“I can’t wait to get back there,” he said. “That job is just the best job in the whole world.”


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