NEW YORK, NEW YORK, March 14, 2014—The United Hospital Fund hosted its 21st annual Hospital Auxilian and Volunteer Achievement Awards ceremony today at the Waldorf-Astoria, honoring 91 volunteers and auxilians who provide exceptional service to hospitals throughout the five boroughs of New York City and nearby Long Island. Lonnie Quinn, chief weathercaster at CBS 2 News, was the special guest at the event, which drew some 750 attendees in the hotel's Grand Ballroom.
The honorees were chosen from among New York City's and nearby Long Island's thousands of hospital volunteers, who collectively provide millions of hours of service annually. They range in age from their 20s to their 80s and come from all walks of life—college student, accountant, cab driver, cook, executive, writer, artist; retired teacher, nurse, social worker; veteran; parent and grandparent. They have provided, on average, more than ten years of volunteer service—some first motivated by their own experiences as patients—in virtually every hospital setting, from gifts shops and fundraising departments, to emergency rooms and clinics specializing in everything from pediatrics to geriatrics.
"This event is one of the highlights for me each year, as we get to celebrate the contributions of these everyday heroes," said Jim Tallon, president of the United Hospital Fund. "In meeting many of today's honorees, I see the diversity that makes New York the great city that it is. But I also see an important commonality—the drive of remarkable individuals to give of their time, unselfishly, to improve health care and the lives of patients and their families."
Serving as special guest at the event was Lonnie Quinn, the award-winning chief weathercaster at CBS 2 News. In addition to providing weathercasts on weekday afternoons and evenings at 5, 6, and 11, he is also the national weather anchor for "CBS This Morning" on Saturdays. He came to New York following earlier weather anchor experience in Miami, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Each of the honored volunteers has an inspiring, often compelling story to share, including:
- June Gerbracht (St. John's Episcopal Hospital), a retired nurse, started an "Adopt a Family" program, which provided the Superstorm Sandy-affected families of 100 patients with new clothing, toys, and household items for the holidays.
- Sarah De Forest (North Shore-LIJ's Lenox Hill Hospital) helped transform the hospital's blood donation program, increasing the number and frequency of donors and decreasing hospital costs and dependency on outside blood products.
- Dick and Serena LaVine (Mount Sinai Beth Israel), a husband and wife team, phone and chat with the homebound elderly—often lonely and chronically ill—every week.
- Anthony Austin (Bellevue Hospital Center) inspires patients and serves as a role model in the rehabilitation program where he himself received extensive care after being shot when he was a cab driver in the 1980s.
- Patricia Fede (North Shore-LIJ's Staten Island University Hospital), recognized as the "stay open later than usual" volunteer, has served in the hospital's gift shop Tuesday evenings for the past 24 years.
- Grace Trocco (North Shore-LIJ's Staten Island University Hospital), is described as the "compassioned connector" for patient's family and friends at the patient information desk at the hospital's North Site. Grace has served the hospital since 2003, and has logged over 5500 hours.
- Carmen Cartagena (Jacobi Medical Center), a retired seamstress, coordinates arts and crafts activities, reads to children, and provides comfort to babies and toddlers when their parents cannot be there, as a "foster grandparent" in the Child Life Program.
- Yan Yan Chi (Gouverneur Health), a former restaurant worker, helps prepare meals for 150 nursing home residents three days a week.
- Ralston Chin (Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center), an army veteran, has contributed 1,400 hours in the Recreation Therapy Program, entertaining patients as a DJ.
- Margaret Johnston (New York Methodist Hospital) volunteers on a unit where expectant mothers are on bed rest, sometimes for weeks, teaching them to knit to calm nerves and pass the time productively.
- Olga Perez (Elmhurst Hospital Center) was selected to be in the hospital's first class of volunteer medical interpreters, in 2005, and continues to be one of the most reliable Spanish interpreters at the hospital.
- Emily Vallelong (Richmond University Medical Center) oversees the seasonal decorations of the hospital lobby and played an integral role in a fashion show fundraiser.
- Doris Johnson (Montefiore Medical Center) provides emotional support and practical assistance to help the family caregivers of patients navigate the hospital and its services.
The United Hospital Fund's Hospital Auxilian and Volunteer Achievement Awards are part of the Fund's broad efforts—including grantmaking to support innovative programs—to mobilize the energies of volunteers, recognize their achievements, and open new avenues for volunteer involvement in health care.
About United Hospital Fund: United Hospital Fund is a health services research and philanthropic organization whose mission is to shape positive change in health care for the people of New York.