Volunteers: Why We Can’t Live Without These Local Legends

by Shelli Dankoff
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

Volunteers are the backbone and true local legends at OSF Saint Francis.

Tiezzi. Frintz. Hinz. Heisey. They may not be the Vonachens, Maloofs or Shadids of Peoria, but to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, they are local legends. They are just a small—and vital—part of the volunteer force that helps keep a major medical center running.

Deb Trau is director of volunteer services at OSF Saint Francis, a busy position. “We have 306 active volunteers who put in a minimum of four hours a week, but some are here two or three days a week,” she says. “We have 130 assignments to fill, and most of our volunteers average 150 to 200 hours per year.”

OSF Saint Francis volunteers gave 36,641 hours of service last year, and during the summer months, an additional 88 student volunteers will put in at least 50 hours over nine weeks. You might think the majority of volunteers are retirement age, but in actuality, the bulk of OSF Saint Francis volunteers are 20 to 40 years old, with only 28 percent Medicare-eligible! The oldest volunteer is 93.

Volunteers supplement and support clinical and non-clinical areas in a variety of ways: completing projects such as mailings for departments; transporting patients; answering phones; or serving as “activity angels” in clinical areas for patients who need someone to stay with them, taking the pressure off the nursing staff.

Stu Tiezzi
One of the greatest needs is in the emergency department. “The ED staff will tell you they know if their volunteer is missing!” says Trau. One of those ED volunteers is Stu Tiezzi, 72, who has volunteered for seven and a half years. “When I came in and interviewed, they asked what I would like to do. I said, ‘Wherever you need me.’ But when they said, ‘How about the ED?,’ I wasn’t so sure! I gave it a try, got hooked on the people, and never left. [The ED staff] make you feel like family.”

Tiezzi is retired from sales and customer service at Springfield Electric and acknowledges that his background serves him well in his volunteer role. “I look forward to it,” he says. “I’ve got to have something to do!” Tiezzi enjoys his volunteer duties so much he’s taking on more by serving as a “live patient” during simulation scenarios at the Jump Trading Simulation Center.

John Hinz & Don Frintz
If you are coming to the medical center on a Thursday morning for tests or admittance, you might find John Hinz, 67, or Don Frintz, 77, getting you to where you need to be. Hinz has been a volunteer for nine years and Frintz, whose wife also volunteers, for four.

“I’m not a golfer and wanted something to do, and to be able to help people,” Frintz explains. “Thursday morning is my favorite day of the week.”

“This is joy here,” agrees Hinz. “Unlike a job, every volunteer is here because they want to be, not because they have to. I’m getting a big reward, and they don’t put it on a W-2 and can’t tax you on it!”

Both Caterpillar retirees, known together as the “John and Don Show,” keep things light and as stress-free as possible. They are almost constantly moving, and recognize the importance of their work. “We get patients to their procedure safely and on time,” says Hinz. “If we get behind here, it throws everything off and you get behind everywhere.”

Cathy Heisey
Many volunteers will tell you they are the real beneficiaries and want to do something to give back. “You have the best job—you get to make somebody’s day,” says Cathy Heisey, 56, one of the newest volunteers, who delivers cards and flowers. “At Christmas, there was a woman whose family couldn’t get here because of the weather. I was able to visit with her and you could just see the smile on her face. Sometimes people will stop and ask you to pray with them. As a faith-based hospital, prayer is encouraged, and that is a great environment to be in.” iBi

Volunteers go through an intake procedure with similar expectations as employees. Interested candidates must fill out an online application, get physical clearance, pass a background check and complete online orientation preceding an in-person interview to see where their interests lie. For more information, visit osfsaintfrancis.org/donate/volunteer-services.