Thanking Volunteers During National Volunteer Week

By: Diane Kolling, Director of Volunteer Services at UPMC Passavant and St. Margaret


Happy National Volunteer Week and thank you to the 5,348 individuals who volunteered at UPMC facilities last year.

Altogether, more than 414,000 hours of service were given to patients and facilities. Volunteer management has changed a lot in the last 20 years, but one thing has remained constant – it would be difficult to imagine a hospital without volunteers.

In most facilities, volunteers range in age from 14 to 90 years old, with backgrounds and experiences as diverse as their ages. One of the most rewarding parts of being a volunteer director is meeting high school and college students who aspire to work in health care, then reconnecting later when they have realized their dreams.

One such example was when I was seen by a new physician in my primary care physician’s office who asked me if I remembered him as a 15-year-old volunteer. I see every day how our staff and a student’s volunteer experience can influence an educational tract or solidify a career decision.

This is personified by Dr. Domenic Mantella, UPMC family medicine physician who volunteered at UPMC Passavant from 1998 to 2001.

“Volunteering is a service to your community that pays major dividends,” Dr. Mantella said. “For me, I was able to learn some important skills that I use in my career as a physician. I also benefited from the early exposure to medicine in my high school years that helped to shape my fascination with medicine and helping others.”

When I interview potential volunteers, the most frequent reasons given for volunteering are the desire to give back; to thank the hospital for care provided to a loved one; to gain experience in a health care setting; or to start a new career path as a result of downsizing or years of working in an uninspired job.  It is very interesting to hear their stories and help them find a volunteer assignment that will lift their spirits, or help them grow personally and professionally.

Minda Apel, R.N., said she started as a candy striper at the coffee shop at UPMC Passavant in 1994 when she was about 15 years old.  She recalled that it was fun concocting milkshakes by hand, working the grill and taking orders on little paper note pads.

“It warms my heart to continue to be a part of this institution, now as a registered nurse on the cardiac step-down unit,” she said. “It has grown so much over the years, but it always feels like home. It is so special to be able to say that the many faces old and new are like family.”

Individuals interested in volunteering at a UPMC facility can apply online at, and select their most preferred hospital.