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Hospital awards its crucial volunteers
Ruth Faulkner, left, poses for a photo with Nell Whelchel Weigand on Tuesday afternoon after winning the 2010 Nell Whelchel Weigand Patient Friend Award during the Medical Center Auxiliary’s volunteer appreciation luncheon at the First Baptist Church banquet hall.

They may not be on the payroll, but Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s volunteers play an important role at the hospital.

When they are there to greet early morning patients, or to offer a listening ear to a grieving family, their presence may not get much appreciation — but their good deeds don’t go unnoticed.

“What separates top-tier hospitals is the people. It’s about touching living — and that’s what you do as volunteers — you touch lives,” said Jim Gardner, medical center president and CEO, during Tuesday’s volunteer appreciation luncheon.

“Without you, we wouldn’t have the ambiance that people have come to expect. We are deeply appreciative of all that you do.”

Although all of the medical center’s 620 volunteers are special, two were named as the recipients of extra-special awards.

Volunteer Ruth Faulkner was presented with the 2010 Nell Whelchel Wiegand Patient Friend Award, and Jack Capps received the 2010 Marjorie Covington Smith Auxilian of the Year Award.

During the luncheon, hospital officials handed out service awards to 131 volunteers.

The recognition levels started at 75 volunteer hours per individual.

Lorena Collins, a medical center volunteer for the past 47 years, received an award acknowledging her more than 22,000 hours of service.

Collins also received the auxilian of the year award in 2004.

Hospital volunteers perform a number of tasks from greeting patients, to staffing gift shops and going out into the community and installing medical alert systems in the homes of elderly and disabled patients.

“These (131 awards) represent a total of 159,000 volunteer hours — that is the equivalent of $3.2 million in value,” said Lynne Allen, hospital volunteer services director.

“But the empathy and compassion that you share with others can’t be measured. You are so unselfish in giving your time, energy and talents and you lend them with such a willing spirit.”