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Manatee Memorial Hospital honors volunteers

BRADENTON -- Juanita Adams is just one of 400-plus volunteers at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Yet what the retired nurse does for patients and their families at MMH spoke for all of the volunteers who were honored at Wednesday’s Manatee Memorial Foundation Auxiliary celebration installation luncheon at Renaissance on 9th.

Adams, who is on the auxiliary’s board of directors and was recognized for 1,000 hours of service, does whatever is needed:

Going for blood.

Discharging people.

Making coffee and serving lunches.

“I sit down and talk with somebody in distress, or needs a shoulder to cry on,” said Adams, who was surgery nurse for 42 years in California. “It’s fulfilling. When I go home at night, I feel real good because I’ve done something to help somebody.”

That was a familiar refrain at Wednesday’s function.

Listen to volunteer Freida Bellamy, a retired teacher after 35 years, who was also saluted for 1,000 hours of service.

“It’s so rewarding,” said the 2011 executive committee recording secretary. “I have friends who ask me what do I do at the hospital and how much do they pay? There’s payment when you walk down the hall and you smile at a patient and the patient smiles back at you. They’d be so grateful for just a smile. I was grateful to them for giving me a smile.

“The hospital gives me more than I give to it.”

Not only were volunteers and new auxiliary officers recognized, but checks totaling $95,000 -- a portion of the $383,000 raised in 2010 by the auxiliary’s thrift shop -- were distributed to 29 nonprofits around Manatee County.

One of them was HOPE Family Services, and Executive Director Laurel Lynch was grateful.

“The economy isn’t going great guns, and there is an adverse impact for organizations like HOPE,” she said. “Money is more difficult to come by, and yet we’ve got more and more clients this year than we’ve ever had.”

The demand on HOPE’s services, between the shelter and feeding, clothing and caring for its clients, is up 200 percent.

“This money makes all the difference in helping us provide quality services,” Lynch said.

More than $4 million has been distributed since the foundation started in 1994, according to Vernon DeSear, the foundation executive director and MMH vice president.

“The generosity of this organization is they see a need in being able to go in at a time which is difficult to most people, bring a little joy, a little happiness, give a smile, be of service,” he said. “It also goes back to their individual character. They all in their lifetime were givers. You find that’s something they like to do. It’s innate with them. They want to be there to take care of people.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.