It takes all kinds

Published 10:00 pm Friday, May 24, 2013

Some people truly know how to give.

If his volunteer hours were all compressed into 24-hour shifts, one after the other, without breaks for sleeping, eating, holidays or vacations, Otha Rountree would have given the last 480 or so days of his life in service to Sentara Obici Hospital.

Naturally, though, his volunteer hours have been spread over an even longer period because of all those breaks for life away from the hospital, where he is known for the unusual collection of hats he wears as he greets visitors and patients from the information desk at the front entrance.

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Rountree gives directions, he gives contact information, he gives answers to a host of questions as varied as the people who stop to ask them. But he gives some things that are even more important to visitors and patients — he gives them a smile, a kind word and a heartfelt compassion that all too often seems absent from modern medicine. His genuine personality has probably helped thousands of patients and worried family members feel more comfortable as they entered the doors at Obici Hospital.

But Rountree’s story is unique only by degree. More than 75 hospital volunteers were honored by the hospital Thursday with length-of-service awards. Rountree, of course, had the most cumulative volunteer hours, but others celebrated milestones ranging from 100 hours all the way up to 9,000.

All those volunteers serve vital functions at Obici Hospital, and Sentara officials wanted to be sure the volunteers were given the respect they deserve for their selfless commitment to serving not just the hospital but also the patients and families who use it.

“Your presence is a gift to the patients and their families,” Phyllis Stoneburner, vice president for patient care services at Obici, said during the presentation at Bethlehem Christian Church. “You are truly one of the things that make Obici a special place. We could not do it without all of you.”

It takes many different people with many different skill sets to run a successful community-centered hospital. Not all of them are medical professionals, and — as in the case of Rountree and the other Obici volunteers — many of them do not even earn paychecks for their contributions.

It’s good to know that Sentara recognizes their value, nonetheless.