Volunteer Spotlight: Cherie WoodwardApr 8, 2016
Volunteer Spotlight: Walker - Cherie Woodward
Cherie Woodward is one of our longest serving volunteers; she’s been with Walker Baptist for almost 37 years! Volunteering at Walker Baptist has supported her through thick and thin, from the deaths of her mother and husband to the long-lasting friendships. For Volunteer Week, we honor her and her dedication to helping the people of Walker County.
Why did you start volunteering at our hospital?
I had moved here from Wisconsin, and at the time I was married to an owner of a McDonalds. The company stressed community involvement, which I had never thought of before. I had a medical background and I heard that they were going to start an auxiliary at Walker in 1978. I thought “Yay!” that’s something I want to do,” and I’ve been here ever since.
How long have you been volunteering at our hospital?
I started volunteering in fall of 1979 with Community Hospital. In June 1980, I helped them move into the new hospital, which is now Walker Baptist. I also ran the gift shop for 15 years, but I retired in 2002 and went back to just volunteering.
How often do you volunteer with us?
I’m at Walker at least twice a week. I go on Wednesday and Thursday to do Baby Talk. Baby Talk is a program that I’ve been doing since 2003, and there are only 3 hospitals in Alabama that participate. It’s a program about the importance of reading to children. When I first get to the hospital, I find out who had a baby this week and go up to postpartum to meet with the mother and talk to them about the benefits of reading to their baby. I sign them up for a three-year subscription program, which is done over the internet and includes access to books to make reading easier. I also give them information about newborns, parenting advice, and a free book. It’s important to immediately start communicating and reading to your child. Reading is love. Then, every two months, they get new books and advice as part of the program, and it goes on for three years.
I also work with Steps Ahead, which is a program that helps expectant mothers get the care they need.
What is your favorite thing about volunteering?
Helping people! I volunteer with multiple places, and I love to help people. It’s just awesome. We go to help people and we make such an impact when we do. It’s so rewarding.
There’s a camaraderie that comes with working with other volunteers. You feel companionship and know that they support you. When I get a volunteer I always ask if they’ve volunteered before, and tell them, “You’ll love it. You’ll love the fellowship.”
When my husband died four years ago, I knew these people would comfort me and the fellowship and community that they provide is so special. We had a funeral for a fellow volunteer a couple of weeks ago. We all show up in our pink jackets and we wear pink carnations. We all parade by the casket, visit one last time, and put our carnation in a vase and sit together. It’s really something special – to see a sea of pink at a funeral and a full vase of pink carnations.
What do you normally do when you volunteer?
I do new orientation for new volunteers. As part of the orientation, I always say “Volunteers are really special.” And we are. When I started volunteering, we were just told to go work. About 4-5 years ago, there was a shift. We noticed that volunteers really started to be valued and thanked. Volunteers have become very important to this facility.
I tabulate the hours of work we put in and our volunteers are worth over $18 an hour. We can’t pay them, but we do reward them with patches and pens, and events like road trips and luncheons. Out volunteers are there because they want to be, and it shows. For somebody to come in and say, “I’m going to do this and not get paid, go through background checks, orientations, and everything just to be a volunteer,” that’s special. I appreciate every single one of them. I feel like this is such a special organization.
Are there any stories from your time as a volunteer that have stuck with you?
In 2011, I lost my mother and my husband. The support I received from my fellow volunteers and the facility was phenomenal, and it still is today. When I got the call that my mom had died, they supported me wonderfully. It’s the best, to know that you’re loved.
We have fun and sit around and laugh too, but the most touching thing is that when a tragedy happens, you know these people will help and support you. It’s wonderful.