Don and Bev Kearns

Don and Bev KearnsSome habits are hard to break - and that can be a good thing.

Case in point: Don and Bev Kearns, whose smiles are as infectious as their enthusiasm for KVH  Hospital. In 2013, 65 in-service volunteers donated 12,000 hours to the hospital.

Count Don, a retired veterinarian, and Bev, retired from a job as receptionist at what is now KVH Family Medicine-Ellensburg, among them.

He's 84; she, 79.

Introduced by a mutual friend who ignored Bev's insistence that she was not interested in romance and now married 28 years, they have a combined total of 56 years as KVH volunteers between them.

Bev's start came in 1975 when she joined a hospital guild. A critical part of community support for the hospital in earlier days, the guilds eventually disappeared but their impact lingers - sometimes visually - as in the case of the hospital rose garden, started by a guild.

That same year Bev signed on for what would be a ten-year stint as an in-hospital volunteer, most of it spent in the hospital imaging department. It was a role she relished.

“I started in X-ray, then they started doing mammograms and I got to help with that, then I got to help with ultrasounds,” she says, recalling her role as hospital imaging technology became increasingly sophisticated. Though she understands the reasons for change, back in the days before strict privacy rules and other regulations became an industry standard, there was more interaction with patients and that was rewarding, she says.

In 1985, when the then-treasurer of the KVH Auxiliary Hazel Harrell retired, Bev took on the  job. She's been at it ever since, overseeing the auxiliary's finances and the distribution of funds the auxiliary raises.

It's no small task.

Since 1992, the auxiliary has provided nearly $89,000 on purchases ranging from equipment for the OB unit and other departments to TVs in patient rooms and waiting rooms. “Each year we ask departments to submit a wish list for what they need and we decide what we're going to do from that,” Bev says. Beginning in 1997, the auxiliary also has awarded more than $28,000 in scholarships to two dozen recipients in medical-related studies.

Most of the money raised comes through the popular auxiliary-run gift shop and coffee counter in the hospital lobby. “There was always a small gift shop,” Bev says. “In May 2002, we took it over and have had it since then.”

The auxiliary also raises money by selling engraved paving stones for the path that surrounds the guild-started rose garden. Available for $60 each, “they can be purchased in memory of someone or to honor someone who's still living,” Bev says.

In 1997 while a Search and Rescue volunteer doing EMT training, Don signed on as a volunteer in the emergency room. It proved a perfect fit. Seventeen years later he's still volunteering there one day a week.

“I stock rooms. I run lab samples (to the lab). Basically, it's being a helper for anything they need,” he says. “You won't see me sitting.” His duties don't include greeting patients - that's left to regular staff. But that doesn't preclude offering a comforting smile when appropriate.

“The reward is helping people,” says Don, who likes being part of KVH Hospital's trademark teamwork. “You do what you can to help and you feel good when someone came in who was really ill and you know they made it through.”

Now living in Selah, Bev says she and Don still have a heart for KVH and the community it serves.

How long will they be involved? They exchange smiles.

“Until we can't do it any more,” she says, glancing at Don.

“Or maybe until the fish are biting,” he says - and grins.