Lending a hand: Giving back is a way of life for four Shelby Baptist volunteers

Published 5:14 pm Monday, July 29, 2019

ALABASTER – Within the walls of Shelby Baptist Medical Center, four volunteers wearing blue jackets walk the hallways offering a friendly smile and directions for those in need, work information desks, assist patients in waiting areas and more.

Of the roughly 65 volunteers who work at the hospital per week, these four stand out from the crowd just a bit. That’s because Charlayne Blaylock, Claire Thompson, Esther Acre and Peggy Page are caring for patients and guests at 90-plus years old.

Blaylock is the oldest of the crew at 92 years old, while Thompson, Acre and Page are 90. Blaylock and Thompson volunteer in women’s services putting together birthday boxes for babies born at the hospital.

The boxes include utensils, napkins, a onesie, birthday hats, birthday plates, cigar bubble gum and a card from the hospital. The boxes accompany the birthday cakes newborns receive to celebrate their entry into the world. Thompson and Blaylock spend four hours every Monday putting these boxes together.

On the second floor of the hospital, Page, a volunteer of 10 years, gives directions to guests who exit the elevators looking unsure of which way they should go. She volunteers at the hospital two days a week for four hours each day.

“My husband was a patient at this hospital over a period of about 13 years,” Page said. “He passed away 10 years ago and after that I felt that volunteering would be a way that I could give back to the hospital for caring for him.”

Acre, who has volunteered at the hospital since 1995, is probably the busiest of the bunch. Every Monday for five hours, she assists families in one of the hospital’s surgery waiting areas. She answers the phone, directs families to the conference room to speak with doctors and directs families to their loved ones’ hospital room after surgery.

She also sews heart pillows for patients who undergo open heart surgery and sends cards to volunteers for their birthdays and when they are going through bereavement. Acre volunteers 8-10 hours per week.

As retired teachers, Thompson, Page and Acre have spent the majority of their lives caring for and helping others. Each of the women started volunteering at the hospital after the death of their husbands. They were looking for a way to stay connected and involved in the community. Thompson, a volunteer of nine years, said she’s met great friends at the hospital over the years.

“It gives us a sense of comradery and it gives us a chance to socialize. The free lunches are nice, too,” Thompson quipped.

Throughout the years, the women have served in just about every volunteer position at the hospital and witnessed a lot of change. From hospital renovations, heading a scholarship committee, serving as the auxiliary chaplain, being a patient advocate, hosting fundraisers for the hospital and doing administrative work – these four have been there and done that.

To show its appreciation, the hospital hosts an annual volunteer appreciation luncheon and Christmas party and celebrates Volunteer Week every April. Volunteer manager Lisa Driver said volunteers provide services the hospital wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.

In 2018, 91 volunteers logged 14,913 hours and had a financial impact of more $400,000 in goods and services.

Volunteers have held fundraisers and donated the money to the hospital to renovate waiting rooms, purchase two golf carts for security to provide shuttle service from the parking lot to the hospital, construct a prayer garden on the second floor of the hospital, provide a children’s activity table, a television and patient information boards in surgery waiting areas, scholarships for employees to further their education and to have the hospital decorated during Christmastime.

“You cannot go through the hospital without running into the ladies and gentlemen who volunteer here,” hospital marketing manager Brian Pavlick added. “They’re encouraging and upbeat, not just for the patients, but for the staff as well.”