NAPLES, Fla. — If you're looking for ways to give back to the Southwest Florida community, NCH Healthcare System is in need of volunteers.
“We have hundreds of volunteers and throughout our healthcare system, they are serving in over 80 different departments for our hospitals," Amanda Smith, the Director of Guest Relations for NCH, said. "And they serve in traditional and non-traditional roles.”
Traditional roles include at the front desk, in the gift shop, or in the family waiting room.
Non-traditional roles include their "Music is Healing" program, their dog visitation program, their Veteran visitation program, as a baby snuggler in the NICU, and in the Concierge services.
"We are always looking for volunteers. Our youngest volunteer is 16, and our youngest at heart is in their 90s. Our volunteer that's been with us for the longest has been serving for three decades," Smith said.
She said their teen program runs during the summer months.
"It's probably one of our most popular programs. It is very selective. A lot of these students are looking to go into health care," Smith said. "They have come back to work for us. And I have been blessed to see them come back with white lab coats that say MD on them.”
While all of their volunteers serve a purpose for NCH, Smith said it goes both ways; they help their volunteers find their purpose, too.
"A lot of times people are coming in and they're saying, 'Well, I want to give back to the community.' Or 'I was a patient here.' 'I was a caregiver here. And I'm not quite sure what I want to do.'” she said.
If you see the word "Concierge" and think of a resort or hotel, you're on the right track. Volunteers within the Concierge program at NCH help give patients and visitors that experience.
"Peter the Greeter" started working at NCH 18 years ago.
“At that time, they were concerned that they wanted someone just a welcoming, greet people help escort them," he said.
He greets people going into and out of NCH.
“I have to treat everybody like my family," Peter said.
What started as just Peter being a greeter has led to the entire Concierge program that includes volunteers.
“We get patients settled, we get them registered, we escort them to where they're going. Now they come back a couple of days later for their procedure, they see us again. So they start to feel comfortable. It's like a nice welcoming committee," Peter said.
Smith said the Concierge volunteers give hotel and dining recommendations and bring any items a patient needs or wants to their room. But they take things one step further.
"We have patients that while they're here, unfortunately, they're having to celebrate their birthday, or their anniversary. And we have worked with our chef and our concierge team, we've decorated their rooms, we've brought in special dinners, we have brought in the cake,” Smith said.
"They're all volunteers but they run the same protocol as employees. It's a wonderful system," Peter said.
He said sometimes it can be a difficult job.
"Trying to get that person to their loved one because their father might be expiring, or their mother, and they get a call that last minute, and they need somebody by their side to walk them upstairs,” Peter said. “Help comforting them. I still get a little emotional because Delta did me a job. Forgive me for that.”
Peter said it's the most rewarding work he's ever done.
"Oh boy. You just feel so wonderful. The self-gratification just makes you feel good. Please try and join our team. We need you," he said.
Watch the videos above to see what it's like to volunteer at NCH, including in the healthcare systems NICU as a snuggler, in the family waiting room, in the Concierge program, and in the "Music is Healing" program.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, click here.