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Volunteers thrilled to be back at Rapides Regional Medical Center

The volunteers are usually the ones welcoming patients and their families into the hospital, but last Monday, they got the warm welcome.
Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 1:50 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 4:40 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - As more people are getting vaccinated, volunteer programs across the country that were put on hold because of the pandemic are finally making a comeback. That includes the “auxiliary” volunteer program at Rapides Regional Medical Center.

The volunteers are usually the ones welcoming patients and their families into the hospital, but last Monday, they got the warm welcome. Hospital staff decorated their front desk with balloons and greeting signs.

Now, volunteers are back in action, answering phones that are ringing off the hook.

“I believe it was March the 17th last year that we called everybody and said we’re going to be out for a while,” said President of the Volunteer Auxiliary, Annetta Baum.

At the time, no one could understand just how long COVID-19 would keep them away from the hospital.

“Everybody had the same question, when do you think we can come back, and of course I did not know,” Baum said.

Over a year later, Baum finally got the news she’s been waiting to hear, that volunteers are able to get back to doing what they love.

“So I spent two days on the phone calling people and saying we can open the front desk, do you want to work? Most people just about jumped through the phone and said yes, yes, sign me up, when do you want me,” Baum said.

Baum, who’s a volunteer herself, has been at Rapides for the last eight years.

“I became interested in the volunteer program when I was a cancer patient down at the cancer center and I saw some of the volunteers,” she said. “Even before I finished my radiation, I was down here getting an application to volunteer.”

Baum has seen it all, but never in a million years did she think a pandemic would keep her from doing what she loves.

“Sometimes we have to call a family member when they call just to be able to get the information to find out what they want.”

Neither did eight-year volunteer Weldon Taylor who’s known at the hospital as Mr. Don.

“I had just finished up a shift, left for that week and was told I couldn’t come back the next week and it was very difficult,” he said.

Mr. Don, who’s been caring for his wife over the past year, was first a security guard at the hospital before he retired.

“What got me started in the volunteer side was after I retired, I had decided well, this would be a good place for me to spend my off time, get out of my wife’s hair,” he said.

Now, he’s thankful to be walking the halls of the hospital once again.

“It gives me a reason to get up in the mornings and know that I can go into the hospital and help somebody out,” Mr. Don said. “Walking through the halls and people saying hey, good to see you back, glad to have you back really made us feel good.”

“It’s just a good feeling to know that we’re helping somebody,” Baum said.

Hospital volunteers are used to doing everything from answering the phone, to running labs and giving out directions. They were officially welcomed back last Monday with a celebration fit for a king.

So far, only 22 volunteers have come back to the hospital. Pre-pandemic, there were upwards of 62 volunteers, and at one point in time, there were as many as 200.

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