By Toni Garrard Clay
It's not every day you hear an ETMC Athens Auxiliary member referred to as "cute as a button." After all, most of them are a wee bit past "button" stage.
But that's just the sort of thing the junior volunteers might hear during a shift.
"Patients see me (in a striped smock) and they say, ‘Are you a candy striper?' They don't think anybody does that anymore," explained almost-16-year-old Ciara Paris. "I think they like it that we're here."
Ciara and two other teens - 14-year-old Scott Endres, who like Ciara is from Athens, and 16-year-old Brandon Toliver of Poynor - have spent the summer volunteering at the hospital. They transfer patients in wheelchairs, deliver charts, direct visitors and generally make themselves available to serve.
"I like to volunteer," said Brandon. "I want to be a nurse."
Brandon's future as a registered nurse seems virtually a birthright. His mother, Denise Toliver, is a ward clerk on the first floor's medical/surgical unit, and his grandmother and aunt are also nurses. Caring for patients is in his blood.
Scott said it's not the fact that his father, Jack Endres, is the associate administrator at ETMC Athens that led him to becoming a junior volunteer. It was the influence of his three older siblings.
"My brother and sisters did this, and they liked it," he said. "So I thought I would like it too." And in fact, he said, he does.
All three have said they plan to return next year. Scott just finished his first summer at the hospital; Brandon his second; and Ciara her third.
Ciara, like Brandon, wants to be a nurse someday. Specifically, she'd like to work in pediatrics. Volunteering at the hospital is a step in that direction, she feels.
"I want to be around a medical atmosphere," she said. "And it's really fun getting to know people."
Pat Rogers, first vice president of the Auxiliary and the person in charge of the junior auxiliary program, said all three teens have a reputation among their elder volunteers for being "assets" to the hospital.
"Ciara is a great helper," confirmed Auxiliary member Marie Watson. "She's a hard worker. We holler at her to do something every two minutes, and she just jumps right up."
"Brandon is a go-getter, too," said Rogers. "I'm told they really enjoy him on his shifts."
Auxiliary Treasurer Bess Philbrick describes Scott as "a very nice young man."
"We want him back next year on this shift," she said. "Nobody else can have him."
The ETMC Athens Auxiliary accepts a limited number of applications for junior volunteers every year in the spring. Junior volunteers serve only in the summer. For information about becoming an ETMC Athens Auxiliary member, please call the hospital gift shop at 903-676-1137 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. M-F and noon-4 p.m. on the weekends. Applications may be picked up there as well.