As Ray Ward entered the dimly lit hospital room, a confused patient greeted him with an unsure, “Hello?”
“Good morning, I’m Ray Ward. Just a friendly visitor,” Ray said, already beginning to comfort the patient. “I just wanted to stop and see how you were doing.”
The patient saw Ray’s friendly smile and sensed his sincere kindness. From there, the conversation flowed easily and even included some laughs.
Ray and his wife of 62 years, Dottie Ward, are long-time hospital volunteers.
“Dottie’s been volunteering for 36 years, and I’ve been here since 1993, right after I retired,” said Ray.
Dottie said she did a lot of volunteering at her church and decided to take the next step.
“I figured it was time to do some outreach,” she said. “I thought the hospital would be a good place.”
Each week, Ray and Dottie come into the hospital, sign in, and head up to the second floor.
“We each take a wing,” Ray said. “Dottie goes to the ICU and I help her when I’m finished my wing.”
They attempt to visit each patient, but never know what to expect. If a patient is sleeping, or with a visitor, or have a curtain pulled around them, Dottie and Ray will give them their privacy.
“If they want to talk, we sit with them,” she said.
Usually the patients enjoy the company.
“We go in to cheer them up,” Dottie said. “They are so very appreciative. They usually cheer us up.”
“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “We meet old friends here and make new ones. Most people are very warm and receptive to us. Once they know what we’re doing, they open up and talk freely.”
During one visit, Ray was greeted with open arms by a patient who was unfortunately in a lot of pain.
“God sent you around to touch somebody,” she said in appreciation. “It only takes one.”
Dottie said volunteering is rewarding work.
“If you love people, you will love the work,” she said. “But you have to be able to deal with whatever you may encounter.”
Their mission is to brighten the day of the patients they visit, but Ray and Dottie are also very humble and grateful to be able to do what they do.
“We’re just doing what the good Lord wants us to do,” Dottie said with a smile.
SMC is always looking for volunteers. For information about volunteering your time at SMC, contact Iris Del Olmo at 856-878-6915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.