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When people arrive at a hospital or clinic to receive care, they may be concerned about their health condition and their upcoming appointment, uneasy about not knowing where to go and stressed about having to navigate traffic and find parking. Reducing that stress is the top priority for John and Terri Pedace, Mayo Clinic Health System volunteers in La Crosse, Wisconsin. John and Terri serve as clinic and hospital lobby hosts and wheelchair transporters.
"Every day, I do what I can to make sure the patients who come to Mayo Clinic Health System are treated kindly and have their questions and concerns fully addressed," says John, 69, who has volunteered since 2019.
Terri, 68, agrees. "I try to reassure patients and their families, acknowledge their worries and provide a caring, pleasant welcome," she says.
Terri and John came to their volunteering experience with Mayo Clinic Health System from different backgrounds.
No stranger to Mayo Clinic Health System, Terri worked there as a nurse for 42 years. Less than a year after retiring, Terri joined the volunteer service in 2017. "I loved my career as a nurse and felt drawn to continue serving the organization and its patients in my retirement," she says. "As a volunteer, not only am I able to help patients, but I'm continuing to live the mission and values of Mayo Clinic."
For 46 years, John was a teacher, working with colleagues, parents and students every day. "After I retired, I wanted to find a volunteering opportunity that would involve helping people while at the same time enabling me to maintain my interpersonal and communication skills," he says.
Although the Pedaces take a break over the winter months to escape Wisconsin's harsh weather, you'll find them in their volunteer roles every week from April through late fall. They typically work about four hours a week, although John says he'll pick up extra shifts as lobby host or DART, which stands for dependable and resourceful transport, when slots are open.
The couple agrees that their volunteer service is highly gratifying and gives as much back to them as they strive to give patients and their families.
"I strongly encourage anyone to be a volunteer and participate in one of the best healthcare institutions in the world," Terri says. "It's a privilege, and every day is filled with rewarding experiences."
"I'm constantly reminded how lucky I am to be part of such a great institution that helps so many people," John says. "That underscores why I show up at every shift ready to provide the best possible experience for the patients and staff."
Helping others, benefiting you
Research has shown that volunteering offers significant health benefits, especially for older adults, including:
- Improves physical and mental health.
Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect.
- Provides a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills.
At Mayo Clinic Health System, volunteers serve as greeters and waiting room attendants, provide patient room information and directions, and help transport patients and patient items. Many volunteers use their craft skills to make prayer shawls, blankets, sweaters and hats for newborn babies and patients with cancer. Other services volunteers provide include working in the hospital gift shop, performing clerical duties for staff and offering pet therapy through the Paws Force team.
- Nurture new and existing relationships.
Volunteering increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common interests. One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity. Volunteers often have diverse backgrounds, and participating in a volunteer activity helps expand their social network and allows them to practice social skills with others.
People volunteer for different reasons, such as exploring careers, sharpening skills, staying active during retirement, meeting new people and serving their communities. Yet all volunteers share a common desire to improve the health and welfare of people in their communities.
How you can make a difference
If you'd like to make a difference for Mayo Clinic Health System patients and staff, you can find volunteering opportunities in a variety of service areas with flexible schedules and commitments, along with engagement and enrichment options that fit you best. Check out the options at your preferred location.