Louise Acheson is one of 65 "in-service" volunteers who serve in 25 departments at KVCH. In addition, Director of Volunteer Services Karen Schock manages 35 student volunteers who are preparing for careers in medical-related fields.
"I see our volunteers as a link between the organization and our community," says Schock. Volunteers receive the same orientation training that employees received. "They're treated as well-respected members in the hospital."
If you are interested in volunteering at KVCH, please contact Karen Schock at (509) 962-7322.
A KVCH Story: Longstanding Volunteer Louise Acheson
Louise Acheson knows a good thing when she sees it and she says one of the best things about living in Ellensburg is Kittitas Valley Community Hospital.
She should know. After all, Acheson signed on as a volunteer at KVCH in November 1969, just months after arriving in Kittitas County. Forty-three years later, she's the unofficial dean of KVCH's blue smock brigade, a corps of volunteers whose efforts play a key role in helping the hospital serve the community. "I first volunteered on the floor in the med[ical]-surgery," Acheson, a petite, fit-looking woman, recalls. "Back then we were the Pink Ladies and work pink pinafores and white blouses." The pinafores are long gone, replaced by the blue smocks that now mark the hospital's volunteers.
Acheson, warm and gracious but by nature understate and wary of the limelight, remains the quiet, constant force she's long been.
Karen Schock, director of volunteer services at KVCH for the past 22 years, says Acheson epitomizes the high-quality volunteer team that serves the hospital. "She's just solid. She's dedicated, you can depend on her. That is what I hear from all of the people in the hospital she comes in contact with," Schock says.
Dee Weber echoes Schock's praise. Nearly five years ago, Weber says, Acheson - a rancher's wife - "roped" her into volunteering at the hospital's espresso stand. "She is the sweetest lady, personable, funny, a pillar of strength," Weber says admiringly. "She's behind-the-scenes, sets the stage, sits back behind the curtain and watches it happen."
Acheson has worked in numerous departments over the years. These days, she pulls mammography charts for patients scheduled for appointments in imaging the following week. She also fills in as needed for the regular volunteer in the Cancer Outreach program where staff from North Star Lodge, a cancer treatment facility in Yakima, come to Ellensburg once a week to administer infusion therapy (chemotherapy) to patients.
"I check on patients, offer warm blankets, a beverage, or a magazine," she says. "Sometimes I just sit for a while and talk with the people who have come with the patients. One day I spent half an hour just talking with a lady about dachshunds. One man who brought his wife liked to talk about skiing."
For Acheson, it's a decidedly personal act of caring: diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, she understands what it's like to go through chemo. Following her own cancer battle, she helped organize a breast cancer support group that still meets for lunch twice a year. She also volunteers with the Reach for Recovery, an American Cancer Society program that connects newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients with someone who has experienced it.
Now 68, she laughs, her hazel eyes dancing, when she's asked if she ever thinks about hanging up her smock. "No, I never have," she says, flashing a smile. "Once a volunteer, always a volunteer. I love what I do. It really is a passion."
*Pictured left to right: Bev Kearns, Dee Axthelm, Louise Acheson, Judy Ragland, Howard Collins