Will Glaspie, director of volunteer services, at Oroville Hospital is retiring this month after a 40+-year career in health care. Before he heads off to enjoy his well-earned retirement, CAHHS had a few questions for him. Some answers have been edited for clarity.
1. How long have you been the director of volunteer services with Oroville Hospital?
I first became the director of volunteer services (DVS) at Oroville Hospital in 1989. At the time, I was the director of human resources. The prior DVS, Barbara Hunn, had just retired and the hospital president/CEO asked me to add the volunteers to my responsibilities. I was actually very eager to do so.
2. Many of us know you’ve had many careers – nurse, sheriff deputy, human resources, pastor, author – what is the reason you decided to become a volunteer director?
My first-ever experience with hospital volunteers was in 1975 when I was a patient in a small central Oregon hospital for seven weeks. I had been in an auto accident and sustained a fractured femur, which was being treated by skeletal traction. The traction weights were suspended from a Steinmann pin, which had been drilled through my shin bone and protruded from each side of my leg.
Because of the traction, I could not reach my left lower leg and foot. There was a hospital volunteer (whom I shall never forget) who used to come in and rub my foot with lotion. That selfless, seemingly small, act of kindness is one of my greatest memories of an otherwise horrible time in my life. So, when I got the chance to work with a group of folks who gave up their time to help and comfort others, I readily accepted.
3. How does the volunteer director job compare to your other careers?
My role as DVS has always really been more liaison than director. We have been blessed to have very intelligent and capable volunteers who have been managers and/or key people in their respective careers and who bring their knowledge and expertise with them to the hospital volunteer program. These folks have never really needed direction from me. They mainly just need me to represent them to the hospital administration and to keep them advised regarding any changes/requests that come from administration.
4. Please share your most memorable hospital volunteer-related story.
Our volunteers have been very involved in the Mount Shasta Area Council (MSAC) and have served the council in just about every capacity, including the president, president-elect, secretary, treasurer, and gift shop chair. It was my privilege to serve as the DVS representative at different times over the years.
In the early years, the MSAC used to meet at least twice a year at the host hospital. I much preferred that practice as it gave us the opportunity to visit the facilities where our counterparts served. I do understand the reason for centralizing the location of our meetings, but I miss visiting the other hospitals like we used to do.
A few times, when we met at Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka, I would rent an airplane and fly our president and president-elect up to the Yreka airport, where we would be met by Deanne Terry (Fairchild Medical Center volunteer) and her husband. They would graciously haul us the five or so miles into town to attend the meeting and then back to the airport when the meeting was over. One great thing about flying was that the trip from Oroville to Yreka was just a little over an hour as opposed to more than three hours by car.
5. What will you miss most about your role?
I continued to work with the volunteers until September 2003, when I left Oroville Hospital to join the staff at my church as an assistant pastor. At one point after I had left the hospital, I had an opportunity to have a discussion with the hospital administrator. He asked me if I missed my work at the hospital. I told him that I really missed the people, both volunteers and staff.
In the spring of 2008, changes in my wife’s employment necessitated that I return to work. I contacted the hospital administrator, who graciously allowed me to return as the DVS. It was almost as if I had never left.
6. You were once the chair of the statewide volunteer leadership committee, the Directors’ Coordinating Council, and represented leadership on the CAHHS and CHA Boards of Trustees. Is there any takeaway you learned from that experience that you could share with members?
In 2009, I became involved with CAHHS Volunteer Services, serving on the statewide committee and annual conference planning committee. The committee was packed with both paid and unpaid volunteer leaders, and I was able to learn a great deal working with each of them.
In 2015, I served as chair of the statewide volunteer committee, along with my dear friend Richard Hart. We represented hospital volunteers on the CAHHS and CHA Boards of Trustees. We participated in several meetings with hospital CEOs throughout the state and I was immensely inspired by the commitment, determination, and work ethic of that brain trust!
7. Although the pandemic may be the biggest challenge in volunteerism during your tenure, are there any other challenges you faced and overcame?
I was, am, and always will be impressed with the caliber of people who give of themselves in volunteering. Theirs is a mindset of selflessness that puts others and the needs of others before their own. I know that volunteering brings a gratification all its own, and the volunteer can only imagine the full effect they have on the lives of those being served. But as one who has been a recipient of a hospital volunteer’s kindness, I am convinced that the effect on my life was far greater than the volunteer ever knew.
8. What are you looking forward to most in retirement?
For more than 20 years of my adult life, I held more than one job at a time and sometimes up to three jobs. As I eagerly face full retirement, I know that I will spend time volunteering, but first I have a lot of missed fishing to make up for.
9. Why do you think people should consider volunteer work?
I would encourage those who volunteer to not only keep on doing so, but to recruit others and let them know what a joy it is to serve others. COVID-19 surely can’t last forever and hopefully soon all our wonderful volunteers will be able to return to our hospitals. I anticipate numbers will have dwindled simply by attrition.
I would also like to encourage those who are in positions of volunteer management. I am sure I don’t have to tell you how working with such wonderful people as hospital volunteers can enrich your lives. It certainly has mine, for which I am eternally grateful. When times are tough, the tough keep their eyes on the prize, put one foot in front of the other, and get the job done. May God bless each and every one of you for all you do!