Betty Rose Cortes
Highline Medical Center volunteers encourage members of the community to give their time caring for patients. Pictured from left to right: Annette Ventoza, Judy Beste and Sam Fenner.

“Every patient is my patient”

Highline Medical Center Volunteers give from the heart

By Betty Rose Cortes

You don’t have to be a physician to care for those who need it most at Highline Medical Center. In fact, you don’t need any medical experience at all. If you have the desire to care for others and have the time to do so, you can join the devoted team of helping hands as one of Highline’s finest volunteers.

At the Day Surgery Center, everyone knows Sam Fenner. He is the older volunteer that helps patients around the 3rd floor Cedar wing of the hospital. You could never tell by his smile, contagious laugh or clever jokes that he is 82 years old and still kicking.

“I meet so many wonderful people here,” said the Tennessee native about his experience as a volunteer, “We get back so much more than we ever give.”

Originally from Butler, Tennessee, Sam served in the Navy, which brought him to Washington State. Shortly after, he met his wife, Geri, in Seattle, then worked at Boeing for nearly 39 years before retirement.

“I started because my wife saw an ad in the newspaper and thought I would be good at it,” he said.

And like most wives, Geri was right. She was so on point about Sam’s abilities and his generous heart that Mr. Fenner has been volunteering at the hospital for the past 16 years.

“Over time I put in more hours because it’s enjoyable,” he said of his continued service for the patients, “but there are other volunteers who have served much longer than that.”

When Sam isn’t escorting patients or visitors around the hospital, he spends his time writing for the volunteer newsletter called Helping Hands.

“The column interviews our volunteers and it is very interesting,” he said, “Our volunteers come from all over the country, and many are from other countries.”

One Burien native of the group is 16 year old Annette Ventoza, who has been volunteering at Highline for a year and a half. A member of Highline Community College’s Running Start program, where high school students are able to take college level classes to receive an Associate’s degree upon graduation from high school, Annette’s career goal is to become a registered nurse.

“I have family friends who helped at Highline and are now nurses at Highline,” she said of her influence towards a nursing degree, “I wanted the experience (of volunteering) to see if I would like it.”

So far, she does, and she does a great job, too. Annette serves as a front desk messenger for the main lobby entrance.

“Most of my job is to help the discharged patients,” she said regarding her responsibilities during her shift, “It’s fun to meet new people and hear their stories of how they enjoyed their stay, or what they are most looking forward to when they get home.”

“There is a good atmosphere of people here,” she said.

Students like Annette make up a handful of aspiring medical professionals that serve as volunteers at the hospital.

“We have nursing students, premed students, a medical student,” said Judy Beste, “there is a wide range of volunteers - some are also surviving cancer patients.”

Judy volunteers at Highline’s Cancer Center. However, she hasn’t always been just a volunteer. She actually started out as a nurse.

“I was a nurse for 32 years before I retired,” she said, “Then, when the Cancer Center opened back in 2007, I began to volunteer.”

“I enjoy the patients. It’s very satisfying. It’s quasi nursing,” she said, “I’m not a nurse anymore, but once you become a nurse, it never goes away.”

Beyond her love to care for cancer patients, Judy devotes time to the hospital in other ways. She most recently concluded her two year term on the Board of Trustees and is now serving on the Quality and Safety Committee, as well as the Spirituality Committee at the hospital. She also helps to recruit volunteers for the Cancer Center.

“One in three people will be touched by cancer at some point in their life,” Judy said, “so we’re always looking for more volunteers.”

No special requirements are needed, either. Volunteers at Highline come from all walks of life and are trained on the job.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in life,” Judy said, “It’s a matter of if you can donate four hours a week (to volunteer).”

If you’re interested in volunteering at Highline Medical Center, visit www.highlinemedicalcenter.org, or contact Volunteer Coordinator Kim Couret by email at kcouret@highlinemedical.org or by phone at 206-988-5767.

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