Hospital helpers

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  • Fourty-five year volunteer Carol Price fills out a volunteer time sheet for Susan Riess at Kootenai Health on Friday. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    Kootenai Health volunteer Susan Riess delivers flowers to Rita Langford, of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The get well flowers were from a family friend of Riess’ husband in Florida. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

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    Susan Riess

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    Volunteers such as Susan Riess (pictured) decorate the giant Christmas tree at Kootenai Health. (Courtesy Photo)

  • Fourty-five year volunteer Carol Price fills out a volunteer time sheet for Susan Riess at Kootenai Health on Friday. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • 1

    Kootenai Health volunteer Susan Riess delivers flowers to Rita Langford, of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The get well flowers were from a family friend of Riess’ husband in Florida. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

  • 2

    Susan Riess

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    Volunteers such as Susan Riess (pictured) decorate the giant Christmas tree at Kootenai Health. (Courtesy Photo)

Become a volunteer: Kootenai Health wants you

Kootenai Health officials said becoming a hospital volunteer is a perfect opportunity to create a meaningful impact on the lives of patients and their families. Aside from senior volunteers, the hospital also welcomes teen volunteers. A minimum of four hours per week is required.

To apply, visit Kh.org and click on the Volunteer tab. Then click “Apply to Volunteer” on the right side of the page. Information: (208) 625-4000

For Coeur Voice

At 83, Carol Price has dedicated nearly seven decades of her life to selflessly giving back to an array of worthy causes, pitching in with no desire for a paycheck. She’s wired that way.

“It’s something I do from my heart,” says the Coeur d’Alene woman, who has been a faithful volunteer at Kootenai Health for an incredible 45 years. Before that, Price volunteered at her church and served 10 years with the Coeur d’Alene School District.

Her tenure at Kootenai Health started back in 1974 when she responded to a “little teeny” newspaper ad seeking volunteers at what was then Kootenai Medical Center.

Since then, Price, who has training as a practical nurse, has logged an impressive 19,000 hours catering to the needs of patients, medical professionals and other volunteers at the rapidly expanding hospital. It’s a labor of love.

“Everything I do at the hospital I thoroughly enjoy,” she says.

Price is among about 200 adult volunteers who do their part every day to help the hospital run smoothly. For the volunteers as much as for the hospital itself, Kootenai Health’s Volunteer Services program is a win-win formula.

“It provides an opportunity for seniors to continue to be an active part of our community,” says Andrea Kalas-Nagel, communications specialist at the hospital. “Many of our volunteers act as the face of the organization. They’re the first person our patients and guests are seeing and are part of that welcoming experience for visitors.”

Renee Langue, volunteer services manager at Kootenai Health, says volunteers have played a crucial role in hospital operations since 1967 when the Kootenai Memorial Auxiliary was founded.

Today, unpaid hospital staffers work in 17 different service areas ranging from helping patients and visitors find their way through the maze of hallways, to delivering flowers, comforting families, working in the gift shop and—one of the most popular services—serving in the neonatal intensive care unit where they comfort premature infants.

“There’s a waiting list to help support the NICU staff,” Langue said.

Longtime volunteer Susan Riess has logged 8,500 hours at the hospital since 2003, when she learned about the opportunity while serving on the highly spirited and zany community group of entertainers known as the Red Hot Mamas.

“One of my Mamas friends kept saying she couldn’t make practice on Fridays because she had to volunteer at the hospital,” Riess says. “That’s how I found out and I’ve been a volunteer ever since.”

Among Riess’ favorite tasks is helping people find their way through the hospital’s complicating corridors.

Extensive remodeling and expansion of Kootenai Health in recent years means more hallways and units for volunteers to memorize. As an example of just how large the hospital has become, Riess says the morning newspaper delivery volunteer puts in about three miles to complete the task.

“That’s what makes you feel so smart …knowing where everything is,” says the 72-year-old Riess, who served as president of the volunteer auxiliary from 2013-15 and is currently in charge of escorts and errands.

Riess says she enjoys the wide spectrum of people she meets at the hospital and never knows what to expect.

“When somebody’s been discharged and you escort them to the door, you can pretty much tell right off the bat what their mood is; whether they want to be silly and chat or just want out,” Riess says. “I go along with people just having fun or trying to understand the situation they are enduring.”

At the hospital’s busy gift shop, manager Marilyn Miller says retail sales help support a variety of causes at Kootenai Health. A lifetime Coeur d’Alene resident, Miller, 80, has logged 7,400 hours volunteering at Kootenai Health.

“The gift shop is the main source of fundraising (along with the annual Festival of Trees) for the hospital,” Miller says proudly. “The gift shop is in my heart and last year, we raised $40,000.”

“It’s a wonderful place to work; everybody appreciates you,” Miller says. And, she adds, volunteering is a great way to keep active and meet new people.

“I’m not a couch potato, I don’t want to sit at home … I want to get out in the community and do something,” she said.

For Riess, being recognized for a job well done is another reward.

“A lady came up to me in the grocery store the other day and knew me by name. She remembered me because I discharged her,” Riess says. “It made me feel really good.”

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