They collectively form a large part of the heart of MD Anderson, but remain rather invisible. They come every shift, perform their assigned tasks and do it efficiently without fanfare.
They are the volunteers in the short blue jackets who inhabit the halls and centers of the vast complex of MD Anderson.
How MD Anderson volunteers make a difference
They are the young and the not so young whose task is to make life for patients and families a little bit easier. They are the greeters at the door who make us feel welcome as we walk into the facilities. They are the people who man the Hospitality Centers and Information Centers and answer our questions.
They are the musicians who comfort our souls as they play their instruments in the entry halls and The Park on the second floor of the Main Building. They are floor host and patient advocate volunteers who come into patient rooms and offer comfort items.
They are the volunteers who push their carts through the waiting rooms offering hot coffee, hot chocolate and hot tea to patients and families. One of my wife's and my favorite places to wait between appointments is the Hospitality Center near The Sundial. It is a quiet place with comfortable seating and a gorgeous view of some of MD Anderson's gardens. It is also the place where we find some of our favorite volunteers -- we call them the cookie people.
They serve coffee, tea and cookies day in and day out in a small corner near The Sundial. I love those people. Waiting is so much easier with a cup of hot coffee or tea and an oatmeal raisin cookie in hand.
How volunteers outside MD Anderson make life easier
It is not just the halls of MD Anderson that are populated with these wonderful people. Volunteers also work in the organizations that offer free or reduced rate housing for patients and their caregivers who must stay near the hospital for extended periods. They spend their free time encouraging, cleaning, driving and taking care of the patients.
A group that we just discovered is the Houston Ground Angels, a corps of more than 300 volunteers who provide transportation in and around Houston. One of them greeted us at the airport with a cold bottle of water and a snack and drove us to our hotel. The next day, another driver picked us up at the hospital and took us back to the airport.
A heartfelt thank you goes to all of the volunteers who make us patients and families feel a bit more comfortable. You are true unsung heroes.