Memorial Hospital Volunteers Celebrate 50 Years

January 14, 2019
MEM Volunteers 50 YearsNORTH CONWAY, NH -- This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the official organization of The Memorial Hospital Volunteers.

In 1969, a few women who were volunteering at the hospital assembled to organize themselves. They officially established their group at their first meeting - January 16. Mrs. Isabelle Lagroe was voted in as their first president. Meetings were scheduled for the second Monday of each month excluding summers.

According to the “History of Memorial Volunteers,” recorded by Mrs. Ida Maybe, volunteers served as attendants at the Visitor’s Desk during afternoons and evenings and monitored and recorded visitor passes. At that time only two visitors were allowed per patient at one time. “There were no exceptions!” Volunteers raised funds through coffee sales in the emergency room. Their primary goal was to raise money for hospital equipment as well as recruit new members. Among the first gifts given to Memorial Hospital by its volunteers were pajamas and a stretcher for the ICU.

Over the years, their immense contributions of time, talent and support created a need for more central communication and organization. The hospital determined to appoint its first Volunteer Coordinator functioning as a liaison between the volunteer group and the hospital.

Susie Lee of Fryeburg, the wife of Fryeburg Academy’s Headmaster Dan Lee, was hired by then President Gary Poquette in 1997. “My mission was to work with the existing group of loyal volunteers while expanding the numbers and their involvement within the hospital. When I arrived they were pretty much handling the front desk only. The program needed to be expanded to include all departments, and to include a broader range of volunteers of all ages, as well as men and teens. There also needed to be a process and an oversight of the program to insure that new laws and standards of confidentiality were learned and met. We had numerous workshops for all volunteers to learn the importance of confidentiality. HIPAA was becoming law.”

Lee says, “Two highlights for me were the establishment of a teen volunteer program, which had summer training and then students could serve throughout the school year. The other was the Suncatcher Gift Shop. It was conceived and planned by Gloria Cunningham and a few other volunteers. During the planning of the new lobby we sketched out the design and the architects finally agreed it could be squeezed into that unique spot! It proved a success from the start.”

Susie Lee retired in 2001 to do more volunteering with Fryeburg Academy and Joan Lanoie of Conway became the new Volunteer Coordinator serving for the next 15 years.

Lanoie says, “I loved my work with the volunteers. They have always been the best ambassadors for the hospital. Many of them have finished raising their families and are retired but wanting to pay it forward through volunteer contributions. Giving to their community hospital is great for them and wonderful for the hospital! My husband (Russ Lanoie) used to say the Memorial Hospital volunteers were the most experienced work force in the Valley. We had bankers, lawyers, nurses, business people; young and old, men and women. Everyone benefits from the great work of volunteers and their work is always heart-felt as they know they are serving their friends and neighbors.”

Maryann Hartigan, a retiree from IBM, has been the President of The Memorial Hospital Volunteers since 2014. She and her husband, Jim, retired to North Conway from Wanaque, NJ, in 1997 after raising their six children. Family members encouraged Hartigan to get involved with the community. In 1998, she met Susie Lee and and started volunteering at Memorial Hospital’s front desk helping patients with directions and information. “We also sold candy and a few other stuffed toys and gift items from the front desk. It was clear we needed to establish a real gift shop that would help serve the the hospital community in a small way yet not compete with local retailers. And so the current Suncatcher Gift Shop was established.”

Hartigan is proud to acknowledge that her former employer IBM funded the gift shop computer to help get them started. Hartigan adds, “Most people will tell you they volunteer to give back to the community, but in essence, I think we, the volunteers, are the ones who get the most back. We get a feeling of a job well done, respect for what we do with our time and appreciation from those we serve.” Hartigan encourages everyone, especially young people, to get involved.

Peter Waugh of Ossipee has been Memorial’s Volunteer Coordinator since Lanoie’s retirement in 2016. “I have a great deal of respect for our volunteers and what Susie and Joan established to support them. Our group now totals around 75 and they serve 13 departments. They continue to provide comfort services to patients and assistance to hospital staff. They help with blankets, pillows, food, housekeeping, stocking and mail. We have volunteers at our information desks and as greeters. They assist with clerical duties in many departments. They help with room preparation, and offer patients reading materials and books. The gift shop continues to be run by volunteers and every dollar stays here. We have a volunteer meeting every other month excluding the summer months and hospital departments submit wish lists of things they’d like to have or need. That list is discussed by our volunteers and most often fully or partially funded. I have never known them to turn anything down.”

Waugh says, “We keep track of the hours our volunteers serve. We honor them twice a year. Memorial Hospital hosts an Annual Volunteer Awards Lunch where hours served are honored by our President, Trustees and myself. We also present the annual Shining Star Award which was established by Joan Lanoie. The award recognizes a volunteer who has gone above and beyond to serve our patients, families, and the hospital staff. And then we host a holiday lunch for them every December. It’s the least we can do for these wonderful citizens. Fifty years later, the Memorial Hospital volunteers continue to be an amazing and generous group.”

A celebration to honor the 50th anniversary The Memorial Hospital Volunteers will be on Monday, January 14, 2019 from 2:00-3:00 pm in the hospital’s Sun Room. The celebration is open to the public.

If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program at Memorial Hospital, please contact Peter Waugh at pwaugh@memorialhospitalnh.org or by calling (603) 356-5461 x 2291.