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The Meaning of Care Magazine

‘Those Ladies Are Phenomenal’: Gift Shop Volunteers Spread Joy at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital

Published: Dec. 12, 2022

As gift shop co-leads, Connie Booton, left, and Gloria Burgoin are crucial parts of the volunteer team at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital.

 

Like anyone starting a new job, Rachel Reis, MSW, had plenty to learn when she joined the Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital team in June. But one thing was immediately obvious.

“You’re seeing people who just want to help and give back,” the hospital’s director of volunteer services and foundation said. “They feel passionate about not only volunteering but also what Jennie Edmundson stands for, what it means to their community and the impact they have on their community. For me, that’s been the best part of the job – getting to know everybody and what their ‘why’ is.”

For volunteers Connie Booton and Gloria Burgoin, the “why” is as simple as wanting to keep busy in retirement. And now, the pair have blossomed into crucial parts of the hospital’s volunteer team as co-leads of the gift shop.

“Those ladies are phenomenal,” Reis said. “The amount of time that they give is amazing, and they truly love what they do and are very intentional in how they make sure the gift shop runs smoothly. You couldn’t ask for better leads in a section, and they are some of the sweetest, most kind-hearted people you will ever meet.”

 

A Perfect Pair

Booton, a great-grandmother from Council Bluffs, began volunteering at Jennie Edmundson after decades in bookkeeping, accounting and customer service roles. After retiring about 10 years ago, she helped care for one of her grandchildren for a time. But when the toddler began daycare, Booton found herself becoming restless.

“I didn’t want to go back to work full time, but I wanted something to keep me busy,” she said. “I think the reason I picked Jennie is I was born there. And my daughter was born here. I just felt comfortable coming here.”

Booton began working in the hospital lobby in 2019, welcoming and guiding patients. The COVID-19 pandemic paused volunteer work at Jennie Edmundson in early 2020, but as volunteers returned later that year, Booton began answering phones before transitioning to work in the gift shop.

Around that time, Burgoin reached out to the hospital to ask about volunteering. The insurance agent from Silver City, Iowa, had recently retired but wasn’t interested in slowing down.

“My thought after retirement was always to do some volunteer work to keep busy,” said Burgoin, whose mother had worked in the psychiatric unit and volunteered at the hospital. “And that was the first place that came to mind.”

She’s worked in the gift shop since, growing into the role of co-managing it with Booton. In addition to regular shifts staffing the shop, Booton has taken the lead on ordering new items and managing inventory. Burgoin also assists with inventory, but her specialties are arranging displays in the shop and wrapping gifts.

“I enjoy Gloria so much. She’s very quiet, and I’m the talkative one, so it works out,” Booton said with a laugh. “She’s such a sweet lady, and she really goes the extra mile. She makes gifts so pretty that you’d swear they went to a store to have it done. She really enjoys that, I know.”

Said Burgoin: “We couldn’t have been matched up any better. We get along very well, and we kind of know now what the other is thinking. We can almost finish each other’s sentences.”
 

A Place To Get Away

Reis manages about 100 volunteers with a variety of duties, including greeting and escorting patients, managing waiting rooms, organizing special events, fundraising, and assisting with office work. And she’s always looking for more passionate people to join her team. If fully staffed, Reis said, the volunteer team would have 60 more people contributing.

Whether the volunteers are interacting with patients and families or working behind the scenes, they all contribute to a greater purpose, she said.

“Volunteers add another layer to that patient experience,” Reis said. “You automatically feel like you’re welcome and cared for. You know that there’s always somebody who’s going to be there to support and guide you through it all.”

Jennie Edmundson gift shop volunteers
Gloria Burgoin, left and Connie Booton at work in the Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital gift shop.

The gift shop is another part of that experience, thanks in large part to the dedication of about 45 volunteers. Booton and Burgoin said their work staffing, stocking and organizing the shop supports a larger goal: creating an inviting atmosphere for patients, families and employees during what can be stressful times.

“We try to make the gift shop a place where they can come and kind of get away from what they’re having to deal with,” Burgoin said. “A place where you can take a deep breath and not think about what’s going on and get your mind looking at something that’s pleasant. Maybe having a conversation with somebody that’s not about what’s going on in your life. Just sort of a reprieve for people when they walk through that door.”

Each visitor to the shop has unique circumstances and needs, the duo said.

Booton recalls how one time the daughter of a cancer patient was looking for headwear for her mother. The shop didn’t carry such products, but the interaction led Booton and Burgoin to order caps for future patients.

Staff members are also frequent visitors, popping in for snacks, drinks or gifts for themselves and family.

Sonographer Lynne Kutchara, RDMS, RVT, stops by often for a few chocolates and to mix up her routine. Even in those brief moments, she said, she’s had memorable experiences – receiving encouragement from staff during stressful shifts and seeing all the ways they support patients and families.

“They’re very kind to the patients,” Kutchara said. “I’ve seen them really go out of their way to help people. I think it’s all part of somebody who works in a hospital. That’s what you do – help people.”

 

“A Spot for Everybody”

Booton and Burgoin agree that they’ve found their niche in the gift shop, and they want to share with others how fulfilling volunteer work can be.

“I feel that we’re here on this Earth to help people,” Booton said. “We have some volunteers that just do it once a month. But helping just one day or a few hours a day to benefit someone, that makes you feel good. I feel very blessed if I can help somebody through any little bit I do.”

And while Booton and Burgoin feel at home in the gift shop, they believe there are countless opportunities throughout the hospital for volunteers to make a difference.

“There’s a spot for everybody,” Burgoin said. “I really believe that. Not to come in and work, but to come in and spread some joy.”

Photos by Daniel Johnson and Nick Bohan

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About the Author

Patrick Smith, a content strategist for Methodist Health System, has over a decade of experience writing and editing for newspapers and other publications. He enjoys meeting new people and telling stories that highlight Methodist's mission to deliver The Meaning of Care.

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