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Volunteers donate time, talent and treasure


Rita Hynes-Bahm joined the cadre of blue-smocked volunteers at Via Christi Health's Wichita hospitals last year when the concierge program she'd advocated for as a member of the Oncology Patient and Family Advisory Council was launched.

The Cancer Institute at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis needed such a program so that patients might fully use the services available in the expansive unit.

“My main job is to welcome patients and make sure they're aware of all the amenities, such as the movie theater, massage therapy, yoga classes and family sleeping rooms,” says Rita, who lost her father, oncologist Harry Hynes and founding partner of Cancer Center of Kansas, to leukemia in 2000.

What she receives as one of the more than 1,000 volunteers serving at the Wichita hospitals, she says, far exceeds her weekly investment of time.

“My work is very rewarding," says Rita, adding that she's grateful to be helping patients and families in a place where she can feel her father's presence.

A legacy of caring

During the past year, Via Christi Volunteers Partners in Caring program provided 85,450 hours of service to Via Christi's Wichita hospitals and generated $1.8 million in support of programs that help patients, families and staff.

While some, like Rita, are relatively new to the program, others have made it their life's calling.

"Their contributions and dedication to our healthcare ministry are both humbling and inspiring," says Cyndi Martin, director of Volunteer Services for the Wichita hospitals.

Earlier this year, Via Christi presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to 21 volunteers who have been actively involved in the Partners in Caring program for 20 or more years.

Among them: Gerry Steiner and Mary Ann Licktieg, who have given more than 17,000 hours of service, and Benita Goss, whose service spans more than 41 years, and Mary K. Peltzer, who has served for more than 35.

"I started volunteering when my daughter was 7 and now she's 42," says Mary K., who enjoys the variety and opportunity to learn and grow while helping others. "Every volunteer day is a new experience and I'm going to continue to do it as long as I'm physically able."

An enduring commitment

Marcella Phillips was another longtime volunteer, selling tea towels and other handmade items to raise funds for patient programs and services at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph. Her husband, Robert, had been the contractor who did the hospital’s electrical work.

Prior to her death two years ago, Marcella made arrangements for the bulk of her estate to go to her 22 nieces and nephews. But she also made bequests to three Catholic organizations that were near and dear to her: the Wichita diocese, with specific requests for the parish school she attended, her parish and the priests' retirement and education fund; Notre Dame University; and the Via Christi hospital where she spent so many hours as a volunteer.

"Her faith and her family were always her top priorities," says niece Becky Keiter.

So it wasn't surprising that Marcella had directed an estate gift to Via Christi so that she could continue helping patients and families coming to St. Joseph for care even after her death, says niece Renee Rose.

"She was a real 'social butterfly' who loved being involved with people and helping them in any way she could," says Renee.

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