Merced's hospital volunteers a big help

Mercy staff, patients benefit from donated time.

April 20, 2011 

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK Mercy Medical Center volunteer Joy Brown, right, laughs as she works the lobby desk with fellow volunteer Yvonne Ayers (left), at the Merced, Calif. hospital Tues. April 19, 2011.

BEA AHBECK — Merced Sun-Star

Yvonne Ayers has seen Mercy Medical Center go through many changes.

Ayers has been a volunteer at the hospital since 1994. She remembers volunteering when the hospital was on M Street, then on 13th Street, and now at its new home at Mercy Avenue.

And every day she comes in, she encounters a unique experience. "It's very interesting," she said. "You meet so many people in so many different situations."

On Tuesday afternoon alone, she helped three women who were ready to give birth, she said.

Ayers is one of almost 400 volunteers at the hospital. About 100 of that number come in only if they're called to fill in for someone else.

Thirty-five of those volunteers are UC Merced students who donate time in the emergency department.

Eva Vega, a senior at the university, is one of them.

She's considering becoming a surgeon and the exposure she has received at the hospital has been beneficial. "I haven't had a prior experience to a hospital setting," she said. "It's helped a lot."

Vega and other UC Merced students help keep patients in the emergency department comfortable and informed of certain procedures they might undergo.

Karina Bermudez, a junior at UC Merced, also is a volunteer. Bermudez and Vega began to volunteer about a year ago. "We've learned a lot of techniques and a lot of the ER," Bermudez said.

The UC Merced students record 500 volunteering hours every month, said Janice Wilkerson, mission integration director at Mercy. In addition, there are 51 high school volunteers, and they contribute about 900 hours of work every month.

The 185 adult volunteers put in more than 2,000 hours a month. There are more volunteers in the spiritual services department who visit patients at the hospital every day.

Mercy employs about 1,300 people, including personnel at the hospital, outpatient area and clinics.

On an average day, 50 to 55 volunteers work throughout the hospital.

The hospital's gift shop is fully operated by volunteers. All the proceeds benefit the hospital.

Betty Ohlinger, who has volunteered at the hospital for 17 years, is the volunteer president. She helps oversee monthly meetings that volunteers have to attend to learn of any changes at the hospital.

All volunteers have to attend a mandatory orientation every year. They also have to pass a background check.

Mercy officials say it's hard to overstate their contributions to the hospital.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or

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