Community, Kelsey Hospital, United Hospital
Volunteers make a difference at United, Kelsey Hospitals
Breast cancer survivor Connie Hansen enjoys volunteering at Spectrum Health United Hospital Cancer Center. She believes her own cancer journey helps her connect with patients going through their own diagnoses and treatment.
“There’s nothing worse than hearing you have cancer,” Hansen said. “I thought I could be an inspiration to people and share my experience.”
Prior to COVID-19, Hansen would volunteer each Tuesday for about six hours. She would bring patients warm blankets to make them more comfortable, bring them coffee or refreshments and support the cancer center staff with clerical duties and light cleaning.
“Whatever the staff needed me to do,” she said. “I enjoyed taking care of the patients.”
Hansen also provided a listening ear.
“A lot of people would talk, knowing that I walked the walk that they were walking,” she said. “I knew exactly how they felt sitting in that chair.”
Hansen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and opted for a mastectomy. A different breast cancer two years later led to another mastectomy in 2004 followed by chemotherapy.
She would remain cancer free 17 years until October of 2021 when she was diagnosed with Stage 1B pancreatic cancer. Her last of 18 chemo sessions for this latest cancer was Tuesday in the same unit she’s volunteered for years.
The caregiver was now being treated along with patients she’s helped in the past.
At 80 years young, Hansen plans to take a month off before completing six weeks of radiation treatment at Spectrum Health Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion in Grand Rapids.
“This is my third time down this road,” she said. “Then I hope to be done with all of this.”
She’s planning to return to the Greenville cancer center as a volunteer in August. She previously served the United Hospital human resources department as a volunteer for 13 years.
Like Hansen, Sadie Springsteen and Jean Peterson are longtime volunteers who enjoy giving back to the community.
Springsteen, 71, volunteers about 25-30 hours a week at Spectrum Health United Lifestyles.
She greets patients, assists the Spectrum Health Foundation United and Kelsey Hospitals with clerical support, and sews blankets and donates them to cancer center patients and residents at the United and Kelsey Hospital Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and for families at United Hospital Family Birthing Center.
Springsteen recently donated 14 blankets that took more than 500 hours to complete. She has been volunteering at United Lifestyles for 12 years.
“It makes me feel good to help other people,” she said. “If people coming in just need a smile or if I can be of help to them and the medical staff and foundation staff, it makes me feel good.”
Peterson, 87, has volunteered since 2013 serving in the hospital gift shop, in the birthing center and currently at Spectrum Health United Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation.
Each Tuesday and Thursday she works three hours assisting staff with cleaning rehab tables, stocking supplies and anything to help the team. “Any way that I can help them is what I do,” she said. “To me, that’s very important.”
“I love volunteering at physical therapy, it’s my favorite place,” she said. “I get to meet a lot of good people and I like to be active.”
Barb Krusniak, volunteer services coordinator at United and Kelsey Hospitals, said the volunteers perform a vital role for the hospital.
“Our volunteers enrich our hospital and community, but it also touches their lives and brings health and wellness to them to be able to give back,” Krusniak said. “It’s a prescription for success and wellness for everyone.”
This is National Volunteer Week and hospital volunteers are being thanked with a small gift.
For more information about volunteer opportunities, call Krusniak at 616.225.6386 or email Barbara.Krusniak@spectrumhealth.org.
Corporate Communications Manager