Cynthia Burton grew up in a small rural farming community in Florida where her mother, who spent much of her time volunteering, raised her to be a friendly face, a caring soul and
a giving woman. She moved to Tallahassee in 1969 to attend Florida State University (FSU), graduated a few years later with her Master’s Degree and began teaching students with special needs in Leon County. It was around this time Cynthia realized the impact her mother’s volunteering had on her. While thinking about a way that she, too, could give back, Cynthia decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and joined Auxiliary Volunteer Services at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH).
Cynthia started her volunteering career at TMH in 1975 by working in the gift shop, which at the time was located near an entrance of the hospital. “I loved being able to volunteer there,” said Cynthia. “I saw so many different people who came to this tiny little gift shop. It was a blessing to me to volunteer each Thursday evening – I enjoyed every second of it.”
After deciding to go back to FSU to further her education even more, Cynthia resigned from Auxiliary. She focused on her career and family, and before she knew it, it was 2002 and Cynthia found herself back at TMH – but this time, for a procedure.
“While a technician was the one who performed the procedure, a volunteer was allowed to be in the room to provide support and comfort for me during it,” said Cynthia. “The volunteer was Mildred Ann Dawkins – who is still volunteering at TMH today. She was that precious angel of mercy who held my hand, talked and laughed with me, diverted my mind.”
That same year, Cynthia rejoined Auxiliary Volunteer Services and began to provide the same service she received and cherished. Fifteen years later, Cynthia is still a beloved TMH volunteer for patients and colleagues alike.
“There are so many reasons why I volunteer,” said Cynthia. “I’m able to provide information and comfort to patients’ families. I literally see the anxiety on faces begin to diminish. Knowing that I have eased their emotional stress just a bit is fulfilling and probably the primary reason I enjoy serving at TMH.”
TMH Auxiliary Volunteer Services has more than 180 members and provides more than 65,000 hours of service to TMH annually.
“Auxiliary volunteers at TMH fill many roles, from assisting customers in the gift shops, hosting waiting rooms to provide coffee and companionship to patients’ family members and friends, giving directions to lost visitors, to serving afternoon tea and sweet treats to cancer patients. Volunteers give their time to give that extra helping hand to anyone who needs it," said Melinda Pace, Director of Volunteer Services at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
Committees include waiting room hosts, information desk hosts, retail specialists, tea service, goodwill ambassadors, patient care areas and more. Throughout the years, Cynthia has volunteered in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit waiting room, the Women’s Pavilion and Cancer Center, and is currently volunteering in the Outpatient Surgery Center.
“What I love about volunteering is being able to interact with the patients, families and nurses. I’m the legs for the nurses – if they want me to go find a family or wheel out a patient who’s ready to go, they just call and I’m their legs. And I enjoy that,” said Cynthia. “I am often given hugs of gratitude from anxious visitors to TMH all because I walked with them to where they were going, or talked with them while their loved ones were having surgery. Those moments, along with serving as the nurses’ legs, make my heart smile.
To learn how to become a volunteer at Tallahassee Memorial or for more information on the program, please email VolunteerServices@TMH.ORG or call 850-431-5331.