Contact: Thomas Hottman
As Margaret Howard reflects on the past 24 and a half years as the director of volunteer services at Sky Lakes Medical Center, she becomes teary-eyed as she thinks about the significance the hospital and her position have had on her life.
“I’m trying to remain strong and remember that it’s for the good of the organization that I’m doing this,” she said.
Following her husband’s retirement seven years ago, Howard, 71, contemplated retiring, too. Six years later she decided to do it.
They are also going on other small trips to the Oregon coast, Montana, New Mexico and Texas, but not all in one haul, Howard said. After all, they have three cats to take care of.
Other volunteer pursuits
Howard is excited to focus her energy on her other volunteer interests within the community, such as the work she does with Marta’s House, hospice and on occasion the Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank.
“I won’t be coming right back to volunteer at the hospital,” she said. “I love the hospital, I sincerely believe and support in their mission and purpose, but I need to step away so the volunteer organization will grow and thrive with the new director.”
When Howard took on the role of Volunteer Coordinator in 1991, it was the first of its kind. Although volunteers have been active in the medical center since it was built 51 years ago, Howard was the first director of Volunteer Services, she said.
“Before that they operated as a ladies afternoon club with meetings, but as the process evolved they needed more structure and support from services that we could provide within the institution,” Howard said.
The Volunteer Services program is made up of 17 service areas, which host around 200 active volunteers from the age of 14 to 94. The group works on a multitude of projects, such as providing newborn babies with a T-shirt that says, “I got my first hug at Sky Lakes Medical Center,” and giving children in the emergency department and in the clinics stuffed animals, along with puppets, which a group of ladies have made for over 50 years, Howard said.
Howard also throws events for the volunteers.
“I love giving parties, and that’s what it’s like — you give parties,” she said. “There are just so many things that we do, every day, all day. As the Volunteer Coordinator, you’re the chief cook and bottle washer.”
Sky Lakes Public Relations and Marketing Director Tom Hottman knew Margaret when he worked as a journalist.
“I was thrilled to meet her,” Hottman said. “She has that great personality that enjoys the party planning. There’s a lot of small moving parts to put it all together and she does a very good job of understanding the situation, responding appropriately, getting volunteers to respond and to be enthusiastic over and over.”
Stepping down, stepping up
Howard will officially step down from her position on Jan. 6 and will be replaced by Reid Kennedy, 54, on Jan. 9.
“It’s been the best thing in my life. The best job in the world and I got to have it,” Howard said. “And I’m going to give it to you.”
Kennedy has worked at Sky Lakes since 2003 as the the director of materials management, focusing on purchasing, warehousing and distribution, Hottman said.
As one of 14 applicants for Howard’s position, Hottman said Sky Lakes knew he would be a good candidate and as the hiring process narrowed, Kennedy was selected.
“It’s our philosophy, you don’t only need to be skilled in the job, but a good fit in the organization, and Reid proved himself to be good in both,” Hottman said.
Kennedy has been shadowing Howard since the beginning of November as part of the training process, he said.
“It’s a life quest to be of service,” Kennedy said. “It really is this mantra I’ve developed of being of service to those in service, and with that said the volunteers are here for the right reasons. I wanted to become a part of that.”
Kennedy isn’t planning any imminent changes to the program and said he wants to spend the next six months better understanding the role of the 17 service lines and getting to know the volunteers who run them.
“I want to understand what their roles are and where their skill sets lie,” Kennedy said. “Are they comfortable? Do they need more training? Do they want more education?”
From Howard’s perspective, Kennedy will bring another level of technology to the program, which she believes is needed and will enhance the program and streamline processes for him and the volunteers.
One of first projects Kennedy will be tasked with is the Wish List that comes in January. The departments are informed and submit their wishes, which are then reviewed by the volunteers under Kennedy’s leadership.
Kennedy said he is grateful for the training he has received and is ready to take on his new role in a couple weeks.
“It’s been the best thing in my life. The best job in the world and I got to have it.”
— Margaret Howard, director of volunteer services, Sky Lakes Medical Center
Volunteer orientation Jan. 14
Sky Lakes Medical Center volunteers have been providing services and care for more than 50 years.
According to a news release, the volunteers provide many types of services including, but not limited to, patient escort services, quilting and sewing, helping in the medical center's two gift shops and hospital fundraising events. The funds raised go to support a number of scholarships, and the purchase of equipment to enhance the outcomes and patients’ experiences at the medical center.
Sky Lakes' next volunteer orientation is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 14. An application to become a volunteer is under the "Volunteers" section of SkyLakes.org.