Mother-Daughter Volunteer Team Feel They Receive as Much as They Give

Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 4:25pm

Among the more than 450 active volunteers at Roswell Park is a dedicated mother-daughter duo who have made a special impact on patients.

Tammy Irving and her mother Maryanne Soponski volunteer with the craft cart on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition to the service they provide to patients, volunteering has given them an opportunity to spend more time together. They meet in the middle, as Tammy lives in Grand Island and Maryanne lives in Elma.

“We live about 40 minutes away from each other, so we don’t get to see each other all that much,” Tammy said.

“What better way to spend time together than by helping other people cope with their struggles?” Maryanne adds. “Tammy and I take our job seriously. All the volunteers here feel very fortunate and very happy with what they’re doing.”

Together, they’ve been volunteering at Roswell Park for about four years.

“When we first went to our interview, we did tell them we wanted to be together,” Tammy says. “And now we do the craft cart together. We go along and have things for people to do, like word searches, crossword puzzles, hats, blankets and toys for kids. It’s kind of a gateway thing that gets us in, then we can hang out and talk.”

And being a mother-daughter team has gained them some notoriety throughout the hospital.

“The patients love it that we’re mother and daughter,” Maryanne says. “We get to tell our story to them. It fulfills our need that we like to be with people and be here for them. We feel very blessed we can come to Roswell Park, which is a great hospital. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

The volunteers at Roswell Park make up a diverse group, ranging from age 15 to 95. The longest-term volunteer has been volunteering for 29 years. There are 53 musicians, 16 therapy dogs, 50 pastoral care volunteers, 18 married couples, eight multi-generational volunteers and nine Roswell Park retirees.

“We meet so many nice people, so many different people,” Tammy says. “We just love all of them and love hearing their stories.”

While volunteering is enjoyable for Tammy and Maryanne, they hope their presence is also making the patients’ experience a little better too.

“When we’re here, we’re very upbeat,” Maryanne explains. “We tell jokes. We listen to them. We do whatever they need to hear.”

“We don’t always talk about their illness; we talk about everyday life, and it makes people not have to think about everything,” Tammy adds. “It does a lot for us for our soul. We feel good if we can make somebody feel good. We’re not doctors or nurses, but if we can make them feel better in a different way, that’s good."

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For more information about volunteer opportunities at Roswell Park, visit roswellpark.org/volunteer