Volunteer has been helping LMH Health for nearly 3 decades

When patients come to LMH Health for care, the first face they see might not be a doctor or a nurse, but a volunteer who’s given nearly 5,000 hours of his time to the hospital over the past three decades.

His name is Lew Nolan, and he’s been volunteering at LMH Health since 1993, spending much of his time working at the information desk or helping patients who’ve just arrived find their way around.

“No matter where or in what community you are, you need a team,” Nolan said. “The hospital was a great fit because you are helping people right as soon as they enter.”

Nolan is just one of hundreds of participants in LMH Health’s volunteer program, also known as the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. The program was founded with a group of 40 volunteers in 1957 and has grown exponentially since then. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were 821 active volunteers who contributed nearly 62,000 total hours in 54 departments. The program temporarily shut down in March 2020, but volunteers began assisting with community vaccination clinics in early 2021, and by March 2021 they were working at LMH’s main campus and the new West Campus building.

So far in 2022, 254 volunteers have provided nearly 17,500 hours of service to LMH Health.

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To many LMH staffers and patients, people like Nolan are more than just volunteers. They’re familiar faces and an important part of the hospital community.

“I can’t remember a time in my career, with the exception of COVID, without Lew,” said Lauren Cobb, LMH Health’s volunteer services manager.

Nolan’s volunteer journey began soon after he moved to Lawrence from New Jersey. He saw a newspaper article about an LMH Health volunteer, and he said it looked like a good way to be an active participant in his new community.

“I just wanted to be a good neighbor,” Nolan said.

Since then, he’s actually gotten to see the hospital from the perspective of both a staff member and a volunteer. Before a rule was created that prevented staffers from volunteering in their free time, he even did both at once — volunteering while also working professionally in roles such as hospital admissions and as a sterilizing tech in surgery.

Today, he’s a retiree, but he still volunteers on Saturdays to continue helping his community.

LMH staffers say he’s great to have around — a natural helper who is always looking for a way to make someone’s day better.

“He is very committed to what he does,” Cobb said. “He is a great model for keeping your head on a swivel and being attentive to everyone who walks in the door.”

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When people walk in with a big problem, volunteers like Nolan are sometimes the first to help them out.

In the late ’90s, around Christmas, Nolan was volunteering and noticed a couple who had arrived looking frantic and bewildered. They had followed the hospital signs off of I-70 along with their loved one who was suffering from a heart condition, and they didn’t know where to go to find the emergency department. Nolan helped notify the emergency department and escort the family to their destination.

“It’s just times like that you remember,” Nolan said. “You just do all these different things through the year that make you think, ‘what would have happened if I wasn’t there?'”

Throughout his time with LMH, Nolan has been nominated for and received multiple awards for his volunteer service. He received the Elizabeth Watkins Community Volunteer Award in 2012 and the Marguerite Lockwood Volunteer of the Year Award in 2014, and in April 2023, he will receive a pin marking 30 years of service

“Someone once said, ‘There is the right way to do something, and then there is the Lew way,'” Cobb said. “He does everything to his fullest ability.”

— Kade Han is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Journal-World’s Health section.

Interested in volunteering?

A wide variety of people — retirees, full-time workers, stay-at-home parents and students — serve as volunteers at LMH Health, and you don’t have to have a background in health care to volunteer. Here are the requirements for volunteering at LMH Health:

l At least 18 years old; some positions may require volunteers to be older than that.

l The physical and mental capacity to perform the required tasks independently and with a high level of accuracy.

l Fluency in reading, writing and speaking English.

To learn more about volunteering, contact Lauren Cobb at Lauren.Cobb@LMH.ORG or visit LMH.org/volunteer.


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