The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 14, 2012

A positive interaction

Hospitals’ helpers find their rewards in assisting others

By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Work often is something people do simply because they have to make a living. But volunteering is strictly a labor of love.

Such is the case for Karen Vanover and A.Z. Callicoat. Both are past volunteers of the year at their respective hospitals, Vanover at Integris Bass Baptist Health Center and Callicoat at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

‘It’s just rewarding’

Callicoat has volunteered at St. Mary’s since 2002. Besides being one of 18 drivers for the SaintMobile golf carts that transport patients and visitors to and from the hospital, the 2010 volunteer of the year is in charge of the hospital’s Response Link program.

Response Link is a medical alert program provided through St. Mary’s, Callicoat said. At present, around 120 units are in service throughout the area.

“As long as there’s a landline telephone and an electrical outlet, that’s about all we need,” he said.

Participants have a button they can push in event of an emergency, he said. Pushing the button alerts the Response Link call center, which then contacts a friend, neighbor or family member and asks them to check on the patient.

“Somebody that the customer feels comfortable allowing in their home,” he said.

Callicoat, who retired after a 37-year career with OG&E Electric Services, said he began volunteering because “I felt like giving back to the community,” he said. “I just thought that was an important thing to do. You’re a citizen here, support your community.”

Volunteering, he said, is “very rewarding.”

Callicoat said he gets most of his satisfaction from volunteering as the result of his interaction with the people he serves.

“Almost all the people you transport back and forth from the parking lot up here, you interact with them,” he said. “I just like that.”

Callicoat said he encourages people to give it a try.

“I’d say it’s just rewarding,” he said.

‘I just listen ...’

Vanover is somewhat unusual in that she is not retired. She has a full-time job in local purchasing at Vance Air Force Base, besides her volunteer job in the Integris Bass gift shop.

She works 5-8 p.m. Thursdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays at the hospital’s gift shop. During the Christmas season, in November and December, she works 5-7 a.m. as part of the Wakeup Wednesday program designed to allow people who work nights to patronize the gift shop.

“They are at a disadvantage because most everything is closed during their working hours,” said Vanover, the 2011 volunteer of the year at Integris Bass.

Proceeds from the gift shop go back into remodeling public areas or buying furniture or equipment that make the experience of patients or visitors better. But, said Vanover, her job involves far more than that.

“Sometimes it has nothing to do with buying or selling,” she said. “It is a place for someone to get out of a room and get away from stress. Sometimes they just look like they need to be left alone. Sometimes they just want to visit. I just listen when they don’t have any other place to vent.”

Besides visitors and patients’ family members, the gift shop’s customers also include nurses, Vanover said.

“Sometimes nurses will come down and buy something for a certain patient,” she said. “They don’t want the patient to know it came from them. It can be something silly, like hand lotion or something. It says a lot for nurses that they think of that person as a human being, think of their needs. There are a lot of good people who work here.”

Vanover, who also serves as a buyer for the gift shop, calls her volunteer work “just so fun.”

“It is kind of relaxing to me,” she said. “It is different from what I do in my job.”

She doesn’t like the recognition that goes along with being volunteer of the year, she said. She will be glad to hand the title off to someone else.

“Sometimes I don’t put down all my hours,” she said. “That isn’t so important to me. I just do it because it is fun.”

Her goal in volunteering, she said, “is to just make somebody happy when they find something they really want for a loved one, to give pleasure to somebody else.”

Callicoat is one of 130 active volunteers at St. Mary’s, while Vanover is one of between 140 and 150 people who volunteer at Integris Bass.