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Dome - All in the Family

Dome May 2014

All in the Family

Date: May 1, 2014

Most days, Alethia Boone helps patients register on the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building’s electronic kiosks.
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Most days, Alethia Boone helps patients register on the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building’s electronic kiosks.

Three days a week, four hours a day, you’ll find Alethia Boone in the lobby of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building helping patients register on the new electronic kiosks. Along with instructions, Boone dispenses kind words and a comforting presence, earning nothing more than the gratitude of anxious patients and the praise of her supervisor.

Last month, however, she also received recognition from The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Department of Volunteer Services. During a week honoring the hospital’s 1,421 volunteers, the 68-year-old East Baltimore woman was proclaimed Volunteer of the Year. One of 115 individuals who volunteered more than 100 hours in 2013, Boone gave 329 hours.

“I just want to be a part of something,” she says. “I like to be around people. This is my family here.”

Boone has history with The Johns Hopkins Hospital. She began working in the hospital’s nutrition department in 1969 and retired in 2007. Two years later, her nutrition boss asked her to come back as a volunteer. She has been serving in various roles ever since, racking up 1,277 hours so far.

Boone plays a valuable role for patients, says Kim James, supervisor of the Oncology Registration Welcome Center. “A lot of times patients just want a little conversation. She’ll give a word of encouragement.”

Most of the hospital’s volunteers are interested in patient care and work in busy units like endoscopy, the Emergency Department and the Breast Center, according to Kia-Lillian Hayes, volunteer services manager. Many also request to work with children specifically, or to help out with paperwork or in a research lab. Some bring their animals to provide pet therapy. Although many volunteers are retirees like Boone, the largest number are high school and college students who hope to gain experience and determine if health care is the right field for them.

After careful background screening, volunteers are matched with departments that have requested assistance and will provide their training. They’re asked to commit at least 75 hours, but most give much more, Hayes says. In 2013 alone, pastoral care volunteer Thomas Rogers gave 2,102 hours.

After a few years volunteering in nutrition, Boone switched to filing in the volunteer office, then moved on to Weinberg last year. She says she understands how little kindnesses can help ease the way for patients when they arrive.

“This is my gift God gave me, to be a people person,” says the Volunteer of the Year.

—Rachel Wallach