Volunteer association celebrates 50 years of giving back to the community


In January 2012, the Volunteer Association of York Central Hospital will celebrate 50 years of dedication to the hospital and the community. Throughout its history, volunteers of every gender, age group and profession have dedicated their time and talents to the hospital. With their support and enthusiasm, volunteers have raised an astounding $4.6 million to date and were key contributors to such major recent renovations as the Intensive Care Unit, Surgical Suites and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

In 1957,Richmond Hill,Ontario was declared the fastest growing community in Canada. Shortly afterwards, the cause was taken up to bring a hospital to the quickly growing town. On January 30, 1962, with more than 200 local women assembled, the inaugural meeting of the York Central Hospital Auxiliary was held and a tradition of community service began.

Before the hospital opened in November of 1963, volunteers raised funds, increased awareness and made supplies for their future hospital. Their support and commitment continues today as these volunteers play important roles across the hospital. They offer their knowledge and skills as recently retired workers, students looking to gain experience and every position in between. From directing patients and families at entrances to offering a smile or helping hand, to supporting staff with a variety of tasks, volunteers contribute to hospital life in many ways.

“Last year, we had more than 900 volunteers who contributed 85,000 hours of service – the equivalent of approximately $1.8 million. With the high growth in the community and the expansion of several hospital services, volunteers are more essential than ever,” says Karen Andersen, Director, Volunteer and Community Resources.

Dedicated to giving back

Members have touched the lives of each and every person who comes to York Central Hospital and continue to play an integral role in how the hospital provides expert and compassionate care. Volunteers are champions for the hospital and encourage fellow community members to get involved to enrich healthcare in the community. In fact, the commitment to the hospital is so entrenched there are still active founding members of the Volunteer Association and we are seeing an increasing number of multi-generation volunteering families.

Ruth Coxford is one of those volunteers with 50 years of service. She worked in the Emergency Department when it opened in 1963 with six beds, started the Palliative Care Volunteer Program with four other volunteers and has been volunteering in the Chemo Clinic for the past 20 years. “It’s amazing to see volunteers in so many different areas of the hospital. We never envisioned such growth in the early years. It’s been a very rewarding experience and I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends over the years,” says Mrs. Coxford.

Role of volunteers continues to grow

With a focus on meeting the community’s diverse needs, volunteers have continuously sought out new ways to care for everyone who comes through the hospital’s doors. The innovative “I Speak” program is one way they are responding to the community’s requests. The volunteers identified 11 different languages spoken from Farsi to Hindi, Cantonese to Italian. The participating volunteers wear bright yellow “I speak” buttons that promote their fluency in one of the languages.

In times of stress and hospitalization, many people find comfort in being able to communicate with others in their mother tongue. This small gesture has had a huge impact as it helps people to feel supported and welcomed by those who speak their language. It’s one of many ways the volunteer program fills an important need.

“As the 50th anniversary celebration approaches, we are reminded of the significant contributions of our volunteers. While this milestone marks an important achievement, this dedicated team will continue to ensure the future is as bright as the past,” says Altaf Stationwala, President and CEO,York Central Hospital.