Volunteers help seniors network, eat well at Carney

Caritas Carney Hospital hosted a bi-monthly senior supper last week at the hospital's cafeteria, and it was a near full-house for the event. Some 116 meals were served to neighborhood men and women, who each paid just $4 for the meal. The program also gave information about cancer prevention in a presentation by staff Oncologist Dr. Therese M. Mulvey, MD.

The unique program is part of an ongoing health education and awareness program for seniors offered by the hospital, which hosts the suppers every other month on the fourth Wednesday. The July 30 meal featured roasted chicken breast with a fresh mango sauce, and salmon fillet, garnished with fresh zucchini, carrots and portobello mushrooms, plus beverage and dessert. The three hour gathering began at 3 p.m., and dinner was served at 4 p.m. After the meal, Dr. Mulvey spoke about cancer prevention, and fielded questions from an appreciative audience.

"Since we started, it's definitely grown. It's really received well by the folks who attend it," said Mike Cogliandro, Director of Food & Nutrition. "It's very low cost out of their pocket and a full meal. It's fun for the staff, fun for the hospital to do. Clearly in a restaurant they would probably pay four or five times that.

"Not only is it serving a purpose in the community but it helps collaborate teamwork within the hospital among departments and other people," Cogliandro said. "That's where the value is for the community, to offer them a chance for socialization among each other in the community and here at Carney, and offering them a nutritious meal."

The meal was served by some 30 members of the Carney staff who stayed after their regular work hours to support the event.

"It's part of an ongoing effort, the Carney employees volunteer their time," said James Seide, Director of Volunteers. "It's our way of saying thanks to all those for what they do for Carney Hospital." Overseeing the effort was Nancy Lafoe, Manager of Medical Staff Services and a member of the Carney's Spiritual Care Team.

Margaret Carr, Carney's Director of Communications and Marketing, said the hospital also offers volunteer opportunities to community residents to assist at Carney. "We are looking for volunteers to work with us in the gift shop and various other activities within the hospital," she said. "We really depend upon our volunteers to run the day to day operations of the gift shop. In the gift shop you meet all sorts of people - visiting families, nurses, physicians. You never know who's going to come in. It's a fun, fun place to work."

She said there were many volunteer opportunities throughout the hospital. "In my department, we have mailings we do a lot, and we depend upon volunteers to help fill the envelopes. Often times groups of people come in and find it's a way to socialize with each other while helping the hospital at the same time."

Community hospitals have long relied on volunteers to help, and in former era some roles were for high school-age women, then known as 'candystripers.'

"That's an old term," Carr said. "They were told they could only do very small jobs within the hospital. Now we really work with the individual to see what their individual interests are, and we try to match up those interests with the needs at the hospital.

"It's a good place to start for a young person, because you see the inner workings of the hospital. You see what happens on a daily basis, the glamorous parts and the unglamorous part. You get a great feeling of what it's like to work with patients. And especially at Carney Hospital you become very much part of the family here.

With 825 employees currently at Carney, "There's a real spirit here," Carr said. "It's a great way for high school kids to fulfill the community service they might need for graduation requirements to come in and get a great experience. Our minimum age requirement is 15, and then there's no stopping them. As long as people are ready willing and able, we would love to have them come here and be part of Carney."

Volunteers are asked to give a minimum 50 hours a year, and to go through an orientation program. Interested persons may contact James Seide at 617-506-2550, or visit caritascarney.org for more details.

Caritas Carney Hospital's next Senior Supper is scheduled for Sept.24. Featured speaker will be Endocrinoligist Dr. Mohammed Saad, who will give information about diabetes. Persons 55 and over who wish to attend may pre-register by calling the Carney's physician referral line, 1-800-488-5959.