Laughter and Lunch
Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center is more than a hospital for some people. It’s the foundation for lasting friendships. Such is the case for Carol Bell, Janet Campbell and Rebecca Valentine. The three women have volunteered together for more than fifteen years.
They start each Wednesday by volunteering in the gift shop or at the information desk, and end with lunch and laughter in the cafeteria. During that time, they “chitchat” and discuss their week and families. The women laugh that they have “gotten in trouble for having too much fun.” They might “get rowdy” from time to time in the cafeteria, but they have to wrap up in time for Bell’s weekly line dancing class.
From Heartbreak to Heartfelt Purpose
Both Bell and Campbell had recently retired, needing something to help fill the void that their careers had previously fulfilled. But for Valentine, Fort Sanders Regional is a major timestamp in her life even before her official role as volunteer. After her adult son was involved in a serious car accident that left him paralyzed in the 1990s, she befriended the staff while he was receiving care at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. After a few years of caring for him, Valentine’s son passed away in 1998, and she started volunteering. Her husband was a bit hesitant in the beginning, but she told him, “Well honey, I’m gonna do it anyway.” In the end, Valentine says volunteering “has been good for me.”
Wednesday lunch dates were certainly missed when Covid-19 forced the hospital’s volunteers home in March 2020. The ladies missed their friends and volunteering. Campbell states, “I really missed it. It gave me structure. It got us out of the houses and away from our spouses,” said with a giggle and mischievous grin as Bell and Valentine burst into laughter.
During the early months of the pandemic, the ladies tried to stay as busy as possible. Campbell completed a bathroom remodel while Bell walked four miles, every Monday through Friday, in her neighborhood. In March 2021, the ladies were finally reunited and able to return to their volunteer duties. This was much needed after the shutdown. Although Campbell says “no Wednesday is the same,” the bonds of friendship are a guarantee.
As life slowly begins to reach a new normalcy following Covid-19, one thing is for certain. Friendship and laughter is the best medicine for these volunteers.
For more information on Volunteer Services: https://www.fsregional.com/volunteers/