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Northeast Georgia Medical Center honors volunteers at banquet
Northeast Georgia Medical Center President Brad Nurkin serves hospital volunteers Tuesday at the Medical Center and Medical Center Auxiliary’s 2013 Volunteer Appreciation and Award Luncheon at First Baptist Church. Volunteers pictured above are, from left, Charline Shanks, Meg Inglis and Margaret Frissell. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Dressed in black-and-white server uniforms, the senior administrators of Northeast Georgia Medical Center carried trays of food and refilled glasses as a show of appreciation for the organization’s volunteers.

NGMC and The Medical Center Auxiliary hosted their annual volunteer appreciation and awards luncheon Tuesday afternoon at the First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville.

The medical center has more than 700 active volunteers who donate their time and skills in a variety of ways.

In the last year, more than 550 volunteers donated 58,420 hours of service to NGMC.

The efforts of the volunteers are equivalent to 35 full-time employees and a value of more than $1.2 million.

Carol Burrell, president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System, said that while the figures help the organization’s bottom line, a volunteer’s value cannot be measured.

“As impressive as these statistics are, there is no way to measure the full impact that volunteers have on services provided to the patients, the family members and the visitors,” Burrell said. “The empathy, the compassion, the acts of kindness, you just can’t measure those. But we know they’re felt and we know they’re priceless.”

More than 200 volunteers who donated 75 to 9,500 hours of service were thanked personally by medical center administrators and given a token of appreciation.

Lorena Collins, a volunteer with the medical center for the last 50 years, was presented with a congressional certificate from U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and a commendation from Gov. Nathan Deal for her more than 24,000 hours of service.

She was also given an invitation for tea and a tour of the governor’s mansion.

Collins said she felt overwhelmed by the gesture and has enjoyed her service to the hospital.

“I got into volunteering sort of accidentally,” Collins said. “A friend wanted me to come because she didn’t want to come by herself. So I came with her and she stayed for a year or two and went on to other things and I can’t believe I’ve been here 50 years.”

Two other longtime volunteers were presented with service awards.

Mary Anna Wicker, who has given 9,000 hours of her time, was honored with the 2013 Marjorie Covington Smith Auxilian of the Year Award.

Wicker wiped tears from her eyes as she was praised for being a “wonderful ambassador” for the hospital who goes out of her way to make people feel important.

Lee Highsmith, who has devoted 30 years and 8,500 hours of service to the hospital, was presented with the 2013 Nell Whelchel Wiegand Patient Friend Award.

Highsmith, who is mother-in-law to Whelchel’s grandson, said she was completely surprised by the honor but feels serving the hospital is her responsibility.

“A strong community makes for a strong hospital,” Highsmith said. “We need that to work together because that’s what every community needs and we all have to work together to make that happen.”

The health system was recently named one of Metro Atlanta’s Top 100 workplaces for the third year in a row by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The system was one out of only 20 large companies, with more than 500 employees, to make the list. Employees from more than 1,200 companies were nominated and employees were randomly surveyed.

Burrell said she felt “warm all over” to not only be able to appreciate those who give their time to help the community through the hospital but to also be appreciated by the hospital’s employees.

“It’s not just our employees, it’s the physicians, our medical staff, it’s the volunteers, it’s our board members,” Burrell said. “That’s what speaks to me. It’s not any one individual, it’s how it all fits together. It’s just like a mosaic that all comes together and I like to say it helps us to be a beacon to folks when they’re in need.”