Who ranges in age from 14 to 90 and works almost 45,000 hours a year? Volunteers at Alvarado Hospital—that’s who!

The Alvarado Hospital Auxiliary is comprised of more than 400 volunteers, ranging in age f rom 14 to 90. During 2007, they contributed 44,398 hours of service—the equivalent of more than 21 full-time employees.

This gift of donated labor saved Alvarado Hospital more than $875,000.

One of the most active volunteers is 85-years-young Betty Gossett with almost 20,000 hours of service under her belt.

These days, Gossett volunteers three days a week in the gift shop, which is staffed entirely by volunteers. On Sundays, she conducts volunteer training. For many of the student volunteers, it is their first experience with a cash register and sales. Gossett provides support and mentoring.

“Some of these students stay with us a long time and devote hundreds of hours to our hospital. Even when they begin working, they still carve out one afternoon each week to volunteer because they appreciate the experience Betty has given them—and the opportunity to give back to the community,” said Jennifer Davidson, who directs Volunteer Services at Alvarado Hospital. “She is helping pass on a strong work ethic and integrity.”

Considered “the heart and soul of the gift shop,” Gossett is in charge of ordering candy and sundries. She knows what her regular customers like and always stocks their favorite candies and snacks.

One of Gossett’s special projects is the annual holiday gift bags the Auxiliary provides for home health patients. She personally shops for all the items. She keeps a close eye on prices, so she can get the best deal and add more items to each bag. Her dentist donates toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. Gossett knows that the bags may be the only gift some of these homebound patients will receive.

Another integral volunteer at Alvarado Hospital is affectionately known as “Father Jim.” The Rev. James Burson celebrated 45 years of ministry in March. For 11 of those years, he has volunteered as a part-time, on-call chaplain three days a week.

Fr. Burson is known for going above and beyond when providing spiritual support for Catholic patients and others in time of great need. On a recent Friday evening, he came in to pray with a patient who asked him to come back later that evening. Rev. Burson was heading to North County for a special blessing from his bishop, but kept his commitment and returned to the hospital in the evening—which meant a lot to the family because the patient passed away later that night.

At the funeral service, the priest mentioned that the patient had recommitted his belief in God shortly before dying and how this provided great comfort to his wife.

“If Fr. Burson had not insisted on coming back that night, this final act, so important to those that loved him, would not have occurred,” said Anne Graheck, clinical coordinator. “Fr. Jim’s caring and compassion for this man and his wife will be remembered as a true act of love at the final hour of life.”

To celebrate Fr. Burson’s 45 years of ministry, Blessed Sacrament parishioners have sent him on a two-week pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He left April 8, and his itinerary includes all of the major sites related to the life of Jesus Christ. Everybody who works with Fr. Burson at Alvarado Hospital couldn’t be happier for him.

“Fr. Jim is kind, compassionate, generous and humble,” Graheck said. “He is a very deserving individual.”

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