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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014

News

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Volunteers filling time, filling needs

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Last year, Beverly Zanotti retired early from her job as an information coordinator at PPG, Downtown.

Instead of feeling down and out, she decided to make the best of her free time by helping others.

In January, she started volunteering as a receptionist at UPMC Passavant in North Hills, where she answers questions, distributes supplies and comforts patients' families.

"I always wanted to do it, but never had ample time to," said Zanotti, 55, of Gibsonia. "Now that I do, I wanted to try to give back and make the world a better place."

Thousands of local residents are, for a variety of reasons, spending more time volunteering at hospitals, officials say. There are hundreds of positions, both traditional and nontraditional, that fit all ages, personalities and skills sets.

Rosemary Freeman, 67, of Point Breeze volunteers with Pet Therapy Visits, a program at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville that allows her to visit patients with Missy, her beagle.

She said the idea is to help children forget their illnesses by getting them out of bed and smiling.

"They pet Missy, play with her, let her jump on the bed and talk about how she reminds them of their pet back home," Freeman said. "Some even immediately call their dogs at home to talk to them. It's a great release for them."

Hospitals offer many interactive jobs, such as calling bingo, leading exercise classes and visiting lonely patients.

Diane Gloor, director of volunteer services at UPMC Passavant, said 375 people volunteer at UPMC's Cranberry and McCandless hospitals.

She said many are applying for more challenging, personal positions that help families and patients feel more comfortable during their stays.

"Refilling water pitchers and book carts is a thing of the past," Gloor said.

Reiki master Marty Brennan said he is a "conduit of energy" who uses his craft of light touch relaxation therapy to sooth patients at Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side.

"If you can take tension out of the body, then it can do more healing on its own," said Brennan, 67, of Monroeville. "It helps many people recover faster."

He hosts solo and group sessions for medical staff.

"Doctors and nurses sometimes need to release stress, so they come to me on their break," he said.

Allegheny General has about 350 volunteers, ages 16 to 90, said Jennifer Kopar, director of volunteer services. She said applicants are matched with positions based on their needs and abilities.

"We even have volunteer hand and foot massage specialists who visit patients upon request," Kopar said.

To read more, visit the Tribune-Review web site.

 

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