Longtime Fairview Lakes Medical Center volunteer Ethel Hudon recently received the Heart of Minnesota Volunteer of the Year Award at the annual state conference of the Minnesota Association of Healthcare Volunteers Sept. 20-22.
The award honors a volunteer who is cooperative, supportive, enthusiastic, and enhances the lives of patients, residents, visitors and staff.
Hudon grew up in east St. Paul. She got married and had four kids with her husband, Gerard. She worked in the business office at a hospital in St. Paul and said she really enjoyed getting to know the staff and patients.
“Unfortunately, I had to leave my job at the hospital and stayed home to take care of my four kids,” she said. “After I quit, I really missed my job and the hospital environment.”
Hudon and her husband decided to leave St. Paul and built a house out in the country with a lot of acreage. They ended up in Wyoming in 1996. After a year, her husband had a massive coronary and passed away.
“For a while, I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said. “I was really lost.”
Hudon decided to volunteer at Fairview Lakes Medical Center. Since then, she has volunteered nearly 14,000 hours.
“Ethel goes the extra mile to make sure patients and families feel welcome, expected and comfortable,” Jane Denovchek, Fairview Lakes Medical Center volunteer services manager, said. “Whether she is escorting new patients to their appointments or bringing a warm blanket and sitting with a cancer patient during chemo therapy, she genuinely cares about the well-being of all patients and their families.”
Hudon said patients tell her how nice it is to walk through the hospital door and see a smiling face they recognize, even though they were in pain and did not want to be there.
“One lady that I became very close to knew nobody when she first came to the hospital, and she was having a lot of issues. So I directed her to who could help her, and she was so grateful,” Hudon said. “Before she died, she asked her husband to make sure that Ethel was at her funeral.”
Hudon did make it to the funeral.
“She made me a necklace to keep my ID on, and I’ve kept it all these years because it means so much to me,” Hudon said. “I will never forget her.”
“I have tried so hard to be friends with people and be there for the patients that come in, and I am a hugger,” she said.“I will hug you if you need it, and if you’re not a hugger, I will just be there for you.”
Hudon is 81-years-old and volunteers approximately 16 hours a week.
“I enjoy watching the nursing staff, and what they do for these patients is incredible. They are so good with them and it’s a great atmosphere,” she said. “The nice thing about the volunteers at Fairview is that we all work together and help each other out. It’s just awesome.”
People interested in volunteering at Fairview Lakes Medical Center can contact Katie Swanson at [email protected] or by phone at 651-982-7775.