Volunteers at Friends of Strong: Comfort and Care to Patients, Big Savings for Hospital

By Matthew Liptak

The hundreds of volunteers who donate their time to the Friends of Strong organization offer vital care and comfort to patients, but also save the health system millions of dollars.

“We don’t really look at them in terms of dollars,” said Joyce Stadtmiller, volunteer manager. “The value they bring to our patients I would honestly say we can’t put a price on.”

Stadtmiller said there is an unaffiliated organization which monitors savings that volunteers provide to different organizations around the country. By using their data Friends of Strong calculated its savings to be $3,981,000 for 2016.

“That is the total value of services provided by volunteers if we were to pay them,” she said.

That doesn’t include the almost $1 million the volunteer organization raises for the system each year.

“Technically, around $975,000,” said Friends of Strong director Sandra Arbasak. “At our inception back in 1975 we donated $3,000. That’s how far we’ve come since 1975.”

Arbasak said fundraising for the organization is growing by $60,000 to $70,000 each year. The organization raises the money through a large gift shop at the hospital and also by commissions created through a partnership with Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters.

Perhaps the purest value of the volunteers though is the comfort and care they provide to the patients. There are 500 to 600 volunteers working for Strong at any given time, Arbasak said.

“Four hundred adult volunteers work here consistently once a week,” she said. “We have that college population, which is about 80 percent of our volunteerism right now. They come and go with the semester.”

It really wouldn’t be the same health system without the volunteers.

“Could we function?” Arbasak asked. “Sure. I’m sure that we could somehow manage to be a very clinical environment like hospitals might have been in 1922. I’m sure we could still keep patients alive and get them in and out of here, but I certainly don’t think we could do it at the level that we’re doing now, as far as being able to offer the service and the amenities and the comfort that we do.”

Not only are the volunteers valued by the health system, but the health system is valued by the volunteers. It offers many people — students and seniors alike — a valuable outlet in the community.

Rose Faucette is a 75-year-old volunteer who has been serving the patients at Strong for the last six years.
“It’s better than sitting home and feeling sorry for myself,” she said. “When I lost my husband I knew I needed to do something. I’m a retired city school teacher, so

I’m used to being busy, and working with people. This was a perfect opportunity, because Strong was so good to us when my husband was sick. I said I could get up every day and give back.”

Faucette volunteers 12 hours a week (Tuesday and Wednesday and every other Monday), and is also president of the Friends of Strong Council.

“That is the bipartisan group that actually helps us to spend our money once a year,” Arbasak explained. “They help determine where the money is going to go. Rose is the perfect volunteer. We don’t have many people who come in as often as Rose does. Most people are once a week and they’re four hours a week.

It is not the allocation of money though that is the heart of what the Friends of Strong does. It is the heart of every volunteer that is the center of the organization.

“I love every minute of it, because I interact with so many wonderful people,” Faucette said. “I’m in the family waiting room, so I get to interact with all the families who are waiting for loved ones in the operating room. Having been on that side of the desk I can relate to them. To be able to provide a little bit of reassurance and comfort is really very rewarding.”

For more information on Friends of Strong call 585-275-2420 or email fos@urmc.rochester.edu.