If you’re an outpatient at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center on the east side of Columbus, you can count on Carolyn Martin to get your lunch order right. You can also count on her to bring you a blanket, a glass of juice – or a listening ear. She’s there for four hours every Wednesday and Thursday.
“I love working with people,” Carolyn says.
And work she does. “She works from the time she gets here to the time she goes,” says Luann Randolph, a registered nurse in the oncology department.
“When she comes, we know everything’s done. She’s just wonderful. She’s our best one.”
Carolyn is a “regular” at the ambulatory hospital in Columbus, where she has served as a Red Cross volunteer for a little over three years. That “regular” is important to Tina Sinnette, oncology social worker.
“She’s always here when she’s supposed to be here,” says Tina.
According to the social worker, neither crotchety staff members nor cranky patients have scared Carolyn off. Once, she said, a patient yelled at the volunteer for, he said, getting his lunch order wrong. Nearby patients and staff quickly jumped to her defense, affirming that she had indeed taken the order correctly.
Finding out what’s for lunch and taking patients’ lunch orders is just one of the many tasks Carolyn accomplishes during her shifts. Over the course of the two days, she re-stocks supplies, including tubes for blood tests; makes up packets for new oncology patients; passes out heated blankets to chilly patients and fetches juice for thirsty ones.
Carolyn was fetching supplies long before she began volunteering with the Red Cross. For 30 years, she worked as a logistician with the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency. They were charged with seeing that supplies – with the exception of large items such as planes and tanks – made it to their destinations. She was part of the first team of civilians deployed to a war area, in her case, Bosnia.
One of the places her career took Carolyn was Germany. During her three years there, Carolyn experienced firsthand the service the Red Cross offers to the military through its Services to the Armed Forces. They facilitated her getting back to the United States during her parents’ illnesses.
That experience inspired her commitment to the Red Cross. She has volunteered in Disaster Services, the First Aid Services Team, and the Services to the Armed Forces. Wanting to stay very busy, she decided to volunteer as a Services to the Armed Forces volunteer at the VA hospital, where she sees many of the same patients regularly.
“You get attached,” she says. “You see them every week. You bring their lunches up.” That can mean heartbreak when, as happened recently, a patient dies. The “family” feel of the department helps then.
“This is a wonderful support system here,” Carolyn affirms. “We talk. We grieve. We have joys. And we share all of them.”
The Services to the Armed Forces is one of the five departments of the American Red Cross. For more information on how to volunteer there or in another Red Cross department, go to redcross.org/volunteer.