Sweet Coronado Hospital Experience Made Possible by Dedicated Volunteers

Volunteers are a special breed and Coronado has some of the finest to be found anywhere!  To celebrate National Volunteer Month, here’s a glimpse of just a few of the devoted individuals at Sharp Coronado Hospital.

Lorilee Chien

Have you ever used pipe cleaners to illustrate what kind of day you are having? That’s what volunteer Lorilee Chien sometimes asks her patients to do to help them sort out their feelings through expressive art therapy. When she first started rolling the Healing Arts cart into patients’ rooms several months ago, she asked if they would like to do art and found the response not always positive. So she switched tactics and now asks “What do you think about going on a creative mind vacation?” to which she almost always receives a positive response.

One day a week Lorilee rolls the art cart around the second floor and the Villas to connect with patients. She uses different art mediums for healing, such as nature, dance, theater, writing, poetry, painting, and coloring. The cart is stocked with crayons, markers, watercolors, charcoal, mosaic clay, coloring books, puzzles, various papers, pipe cleaners, and more.  Sometimes art therapy involves making an actual project, while other times it can mean taking a bored patient out of their room to observe nature and enjoy the fresh air.

She tailors each patient’s experience to what they need. “It depends on their story. From their narrative, it becomes evident which modality will be best. As adults we often forget to play, to be present and be part of our selves. We use a low skill – high sensitivity approach, meaning that the person doesn’t have to be an artist, but just do something creative to take their mind off their pain. We encourage patients to use all their senses, being creative can be a meditative process and change their attitude which is healing.”

She shares, “Sometimes a patient’s mind gets stuck in the pain process and attitudes can be altered during the art making process. It’s important to encourage people’s strengths, especially at a low point in their lives. We create an adventure for them using creativity as a resource to get them to a better place.”

Patients range from early 20s through late 90s. She finds most of them just need to have someone pay attention to them, listen, and admire their creative expression, regardless of their age. Her volunteer work at the hospital is part of an internship that she is doing for her master’s degree at the Expressive Arts Institute of San Diego. After she gets her degree, Lorilee plans to use expressive art therapy to help underserved populations, but for now the patients at Sharp Coronado are in better health because of her caring.

Linda Wheeler

Linda Wheeler came to Coronado to visit her daughter, son-in-law and their new baby, Scarlett, who live in San Diego in part to escape the cold New Jersey winters, and now plans on making it her home. She has been a homemaker and volunteer most of her life, having volunteered at several hospitals including Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York and Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, New Jersey.

Although she has only been here since December, Linda has embraced the Coronado lifestyle and bikes to the hospital two days a week to help bake the cookies that emit a delightful aroma as you enter the hospital lobby. “I love the cozy and relaxing atmosphere of the lobby with the piano playing and the smell of cookies.”

“Greeting people and chatting with them at the front desk helps put people at ease as they enter the hospital. I enjoy every minute of my time here,” she says enthusiastically. Patients are sure to be put at ease with Linda’s welcoming and friendly personality.

Richard and Dorene Friedman

Dorene Friedman revels in manning the front desk, baking cookies, and serving as a patient companion several days a week. It seems appropriate that part of her volunteer job involves baking since she and her husband owned successful Brooklyn Bagel Bakery in Los Angeles for 64 years.

They have been coming to stay at the Shores every summer for 47 years and moved here full-time a year ago. “I told my husband that we needed to get involved in the community and we have found a good connection here at Sharp with wonderful people.” Her husband Richard greets visitors at the front desk on Monday afternoons. “At first he wanted to volunteer together, but I pointed out the need for us to have our own volunteer times and duties and it has worked out great.”

She has a following of regular members who use the gym and wait patiently for her to hand them a cookie. “I’m so impressed with this hospital, it’s like a family and a spa with lots of extras like massage, pet therapy, and music and art therapy.”

When she first started baking cookies, she made about 36 per shift and the popularity has now increased to needing 115 or more.  No doubt it has a lot to do with her friendly smile and outgoing personality, and she shares the cookies with families in the various waiting rooms as well. She told me that “the CNO/COO says to make as many cookies as needed because we are here to serve people.”

In her role as a patient companion, she enjoys talking to patients on the second floor and being their advocate. “Sometimes people just want me to sit quietly and hold their hand and other times they need their meal order straightened out. Often people are scared when they come to the hospital, and something as simple as a friendly smile and a warm cookie go a long way to help patients feel more comfortable,” Dorene observes.

Esther GanzEsther Ganz moved to Coronado to be near family and started volunteering at the hospital a year ago, starting out at the front desk greeting people with a smile, opening the door for them, directing them to the right departments and even walking them somewhere if needed. “From the first time I walked in the door, the atmosphere felt friendly and I have been amazed at how appreciative people are,” she says.

She has recently expanded her volunteering services to offer hand and foot comfort massage. It was a natural fit for her with previous massage experience and as a retired licensed professional counselor with a specialty in substance abuse. It is a complimentary therapy for the aromatherapy offered to patients. “I believe in a holistic approach to patient care. The best thing for me is when I can help people relax and fall asleep during a massage. I didn’t realize the benefits I would get from volunteering until I started. Sure, we help the patients, but they give back to us as well,” she remarks.

Bonnie Poppe, Volunteer Coordinator, came to Sharp Coronado Hospital six years ago.  She grew up in San Diego and moved back after living in Hawaii and working in the food and beverage industry. She oversees the 140 lifetime, sustaining and active members, with 75 of those active volunteers of the Auxiliary.

“My goal is to work with the talents of the volunteers we have. We ask them if they have ideas where they could fill in and we find that they thrive when we utilize their talents and let them do the things they are most passionate about,” she says. That’s the way the staff started being on the receiving end of the cookies from the volunteers.

There are more than 20 areas in which volunteers can serve. These include the activity cart, baking cookies, fundraising, gift shop, lobby desk, Meals on Wheels program, Music and Memory programs, Quilt and Afghan group, Second Best Thrift Shop, and supporting hospital staff in a variety of roles. There are also less traditional service areas like reiki, aromatherapy, healing touch and art therapy that have come about because volunteers were given the opportunity to share what they know and love.

“We have so many great people here with amazing talents. Our hospital is very progressive with integrative therapies to manage patient’s health, including pain and stress levels,“ she comments.

Bonnie encourages people to come and talk to her to find a volunteer spot that would be a perfect fit. The hospital is hosting a Volunteer Recruiting Reception on Thursday, April 25 from 4 – 6 pm in the hospital auditorium. It’s a chance for everyone to learn about opportunities and meet key people and ask questions. If you have questions about volunteering at Sharp Coronado Hospital, call Volunteer Services at 619-522-3675.

We celebrate the heart and generosity of all volunteers that make Coronado and the world a better place.




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Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com