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During the course of his four-hour shift with Speedy Transport Escort Personnel, or STEP, Neal Coit walks four to five miles as he transports patients in wheelchairs or delivers flowers, medications and small packages. During her shift as a family/visitor liaison in the Surgery Department, his wife, Claudia Coit, draws on the customer service and computer skills she acquired before retirement.
This active, engaged couple began volunteering at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 2021 because both of them wanted to give back to the community where they live.
"We chose to volunteer in healthcare, knowing what they'd been through during the height of the pandemic," says Claudia. "A family member was volunteering for Mayo Clinic Health System and spoke highly of the program."
Giving and gratitude
In her role as a liaison, Claudia often sees families on one of their toughest days. "If I can help them through the time their loved one is in surgery, I know I'm making a difference," she says. "The best part is when we reunite the family and patient."
As Neal escorts patients in wheelchairs or delivers bouquets, he says the "thank you's" and smiles he receives let him know that what he does is appreciated.
Both Claudia and Neal say their volunteer experience has made them grateful that they're healthy and active in retirement. They look forward to interacting regularly with staff, patients, families and other volunteers.
"If you're wondering about volunteering for your healthcare system, go for it," says Neal. "You won't regret it."
"You'll always walk away with a warm and fuzzy feeling," Claudia adds.
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 people with cancer. Other services that 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 them 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 others. 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 our patients and staff, you can find volunteering opportunities in various service areas with flexible schedules and commitments, along with engagement and enrichment options that fit you best. Check out the volunteering options at your preferred location.