05/01/17 — Cherry Hospital honors volunteers

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Cherry Hospital honors volunteers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 1, 2017 9:57 AM

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Jefferson United Methodist Church Men's Club was presented with the Edythe O. Blanton Volunteer Service Award on Tuesday at Cherry Hospital. From left: Tammy Hill, volunteer services coordinator; Eddie Stewart and Ken Hill, members of the men's club; and Tanya Rollins, director of volunteer services.

Hot dogs and baked beans are not the typical traditional Christmas meal.

But for those who may have been eating hospital food for a while, it's definitely a treat.

That's what the Men's Club at Jefferson United Methodist Church was aiming for more than 35 years ago when it came up with the idea of inviting a group of Cherry Hospital patients out to the church for a holiday party.

The efforts were recognized last week at the annual Cherry Hospital volunteer luncheon. The Men's Club was recipient of the Edythe O. Blanton Volunteer Service Award.

Tanya Rollins, director of volunteer services, praised the church group for its faithfulness. She said the only thing that had changed over the years has been the menu.

"Up until a few years ago, hot dogs and all the fixings were on the menu," she said. "But recently because of policy changes and having to monitor diets and all that, nowadays, it's pizza and sugar-free cookies and diet soda."

The fun doesn't stop there for the nearly two dozen patients chosen for the field trip.

"Every patient who attends this Christmas party every year gets a chance to win, and I mean win big," Mrs. Rollins said. "They go home, each patient, with at least $10 in their pocket.

"They love to go and play bingo, and the group that does it makes it so much fun. They cut up with the patients and have a really good time."

The kindness and generosity of the church is capped off with one more parting gift -- a goodie bag with some toiletries and necessities, like socks and a toboggan.

The patients at Cherry have been blessed by the volunteer efforts, Mrs. Rollins said.

They're not the only ones.

"Their joy gives us joy, so that's why we continue to do it," said Eddie Stewart, who accepted the award along with club member Ken Hill. "It just means a lot to us to see them enjoy Christmas and just being out.

"We get as much out of it as they do. We probably get more back."

While the men put on the event, women from the church also help serve food and participate with the bingo game by handing out money and prizes, Stewart said.

"We have been doing it so long we all know what our little job is," he said.

Part of the fun is meeting and greeting the patients when they show up, then getting to connect with their guests, he said.

"We always pick a date in December as close to Christmas as we can get it," he said.

Jefferson UMC is a smaller church, and the Men's Club doesn't have a lot of members, Stewart said.

"A lot of churches might have stopped this because of the size, but we have had fundraisers," he said. "We have never had a lack of participation from the church. As a matter of fact, it has grown over the years.

"One of our guys in there is Ken Davis, he's the president of our Men's Club and a real advocate for this and wants to see it go on, keep it going. We hope that someone will carry on after we're gone."

Their reward is as plain as the smiles on the recipients' faces, he said.

"You can tell they're really glad to be out and celebrating," he said. "It probably gives them a great memory."

This marked the 17th year for the annual volunteer appreciation luncheon, Mrs. Rollins said.

She said the hospital has an average of 23 volunteers a month, assisting in a variety of ways, including animal therapy and religious services.

There are also organized events like a holiday bazaar, donations of clothing and other items and opportunities for the patients to go off campus for events like the annual Christmas party.