Be Inspired: Volunteer Stories

May 16, 2012

As I write this entry (my first blog entry ever!) I appreciate the lull of activity between two rounds of new volunteer orientation.  Our orientation in April provided many strong volunteer candidates.  Our May orientation is focused on a summer only, junior volunteer program in our Food Service and Materials Management departments.  The first summer only program at Maple Grove Hospital.  I’m excited for this new opportunity to involve youth in our organization and accommodate their increasingly chaotic schedules.

I’m not going to lie…as an introvert in an extroverted role, I can also be very worn out by orientations and interviews and follow ups.  I have a feeling that many volunteer coordinators are in my same shoes.  If you are an introvert like me you are very organized, like seeing open volunteer shifts filled, you enjoy checking tasks off your to do lists.  You enjoy empowering people in your community to give of their time and talents.  You go to bed at night feeling good about your profession and how you see yourself as a professional of service.  But, during the on boarding process you often come home exhausted by all of the talking.  You come in to work relieved when you only have one interview for the day, and dreading the days when you have 5 interviews back to back.  Not because of the time it takes from the hundreds of other tasks that you must do that day, but by the amount of talking, the repetitive nature of sharing the same messaging from applicant to applicant.  You throw you’re hands in the air after an applicant doesn’t stop playing solitaire on their phone during their interview, or blatantly says they ultimately want a job at your organization, and volunteering will help them “get their foot in the door”.  I’ve gotten really good at striking up conversation with complete strangers.  I have a list of questions to start up small talk with the junior volunteers, the college students, the working professionals, stay at home moms, the retirees.  But still, I am an introvert at heart.

So what is the point of all this babbling about being an introvert?  Well, whether you are introverted or extroverted by nature it’s beneficial to remember the good fortune we have in meeting all of the people who are drawn to serve our organization and through it, our community.  Through volunteer applicant interviews I’ve gotten the inside scoop on what it is really like to be a flight attendant.  I have learned about karate, lifeguarding, theater, swimming and pickle ball.  From my desk I have entered the worlds of finance, aerospace, photography, civil service, homeschooling, small business ownership, even the FBI.  I have been enlightened on various Christian denominations, Hindu temples and Muslim holidays.  I have sympathized with applicants whose personal experience with our hospital, or hospitals in general, have motivated them to give back in a medical setting. Applicants have taken me to Australia, Italy, India, Hawaii and many other destinations, all from the comforts of my office.  I understand the challenges and perks of being a Target Field volunteer.  Applicants have taught me about scrapbooking, card making, knitting and origami.  I know more about carpet sales than I ever thought possible.  Through the stories that applicants share in their interviews, I have been fascinated by languages, cultures, professions and hobbies that I would otherwise never know.

At the end of the day, the stories that are shared in the four walls of my office inspire me.  They keep me energized for the next round of interviews.  They remind me what a rich and diverse volunteer corps we have at Maple Grove Hospital.

Jennifer Nelson, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Maple Grove Hospital


Celebrating Volunteers!

May 1, 2012

The question of the month, what are you doing, or what did you do, for National Volunteer Appreciation Week?  Large events, small events, many words of appreciation or few words of appreciation, it’s hard to know, in my opinion, what is the “correct” thing to do.  How do we ensure that every volunteer knows how much we appreciate them?

A few years ago my boss had our volunteer services team read a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.   At first I was a little confused about why in the world she would ask us to read this book for work.  BUT it didn’t take me very long to figure out the benefit of this book in my work, and also in my home.

I didn’t realize that every person feels loved/appreciated in a different way.  Much to my surprise, not everyone is a quality time person.  Some people have the love language of affirmation or receiving gifts, huh, seems strange to me!  There are more love languages, five to be exact, that are identified by Chapman in his book.

As a volunteer coordinator I think that it is important to know a few things; first, not all people are like me, second all people are different from each other and third, it sometimes takes a long time and a lot of discussion to really know what the love language of a person is.

What, you may ask, is the point of talking about love languages and Volunteer Appreciation Week all in the same blog?  Well, I think that they go hand in hand, and teach us a very important lesson.  While Volunteer Appreciation week is one week out of our very busy volunteer year, it is just one week.  How are we to make every volunteer know how much they are appreciated in one week?  Is it possible?

Knowing about the five love languages and what makes people feel loved/appreciated helps me to know that no, as a volunteer coordinator I am not going to be able to make each volunteer know how much we appreciate them during Volunteer Appreciation week.  I will still plan events and work to let as many people know how much we appreciate the work that they do at Lyngblomsten, but the work of appreciating volunteers is something that needs to happen every month, each week and even every day.

Because I know that there is a large population of people that feel loved/appreciated through words of affirmation and through acts of service, this year for volunteer appreciation we had “thank you” cards printed with our theme (Celebrating the Magic) and an open space for each supervisor to write a personal thank you.  With the help of a great intern and Volgistics, we identified each volunteer and their supervisor(s).  I hosted two “card writing” sessions, furnishing bagels and coffee, for the supervisors and had them come and write on their volunteers cards.  The benefits of getting the supervisors together in this way were somewhat of a surprise to me.  They shared stories about volunteers with each other, they asked me questions about how to “deal” with different volunteer situations and they were able to get tips about how to show appreciation to their volunteers.

Shelli Beck, Lead Volunteer Coordinator, Lyngblomsten