If you walk into the McKee Medical Center gift shop on a Tuesday, you’ll be greeted by the smiling face of Marthann Dahlen.
The Loveland resident has been volunteering at the hospital with his friend Mary Voggesser since 1997. The duo first volunteered to work with newborns, but then when the hospital contracted a company to fulfill this role, he moved to a weekly shift at the gift shop. six years ago.
“I’ve been a lifelong regular,” said Dahlen, who worked as a physical education teacher at elementary schools in the Thompson School District for 25 years before retiring, and in the 1970s also coached gymnastics and athletics at Loveland High School.
Gift shop volunteers spend their time helping customers find the right item and often offer a listening ear and a welcoming smile when times are tough. They also ensure that the items for sale are placed appropriately and that the gift shop has a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Different volunteers tend to the gift shop each day, while other volunteers also take on duties such as staffing the information desk, driving the golf cart, pet therapy, and even delivering cookies. Dahlen is one of 40 total volunteers, including 14 who work in the gift shop.
The gift shop has reopened to the public since closing at the height of the pandemic, and is filled with a range of products, something for just about everyone, and with smiles and positive feelings.
Dahlen explains why she loves volunteering at McKee.
1. What makes the McKee Medical Center Gift Shop special? Why did you cling to this for so many years?
It’s a lovely place where (people) can come in, walk around and relax. We become good listeners. The people here are wonderful to work with. Everyone is open and ready to help. All funds (earned through the sale of items) stay with McKee and are used to pay for items such as large wheelchairs, golf cart. It is a complex and necessary part of Banner. We are responding to a need.
2. Describe how your volunteer work at the hospital has changed during the pandemic?
During the first year of the pandemic, we were closed. When we opened it was just for the staff. The staff was very, very grateful. It gave them a chance to just be away. As we have opened it up to other people, we are happy to have you here, if you want to talk we will listen, just to support people.
3. What are your most comforting and empowering experiences as a volunteer at McKee Medical Center?
The babies were always wonderful. They mostly stayed in their cradles, but were always warm and gentle. Here (in the gift shop) we have the chance to spend a little more time with people. I’m not sure there was a difficult period. The nicest experience I had was someone who works here was looking around the shop, and a mother came into the hospital with a child who was just upset. (The employee) bought a blur. You could just see the change in the child when she got that warmie.
4. As a retired teacher, tell me the best lesson you learned from your students?
Be firm, fair and friendly.
5. How and why did you become a volunteer at McKee Medical Center?
After I retired, I didn’t want to go back to class. I needed time with adults. When I was looking for something to do, (a friend) was there. She has a deaf child and she made sure the newborns had hearing tests. I volunteered to help. I’m one of the only originals (still here).
Bonus: Does McKee need more volunteers? How can people register?
Yes, we are looking for more. Before the pandemic, the gift shop was open full time. Now we have a full day (the rest being open part-time.) (She explained that the volunteer roster had shrunk during the pandemic.) Many were older and decided it was time to retire. (For more information, contact Volunteer Resources Supervisor Melissa Wiederspan at 970-820-4166 or [email protected] Or, according to Wiederspan, volunteer applications are available directly on the McKee Medical Center.)
Years in Loveland: 51.
Occupation: Retired physical education teacher and, since 1997, volunteer at McKee Medical Center.