Each April, the city of Santa Clarita and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital recognize their volunteers during National Volunteer Appreciation Week — and this year, it took on something extra considering the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic posed over the past year.
Despite the pandemic, the city had more than 2,500 volunteers, who contributed 19,739 hours to city programs and projects last year. The hospital had more than 300 volunteers, including adults, teens and even canines.
“We value our dedicated volunteers 365 days of the year, but we are especially proud to honor them during National Volunteer Week,” Marlee Lauffer, president of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation, wrote in a prepared statement. “Our volunteers help us to provide quality, compassionate health care to our community. The gift of their time and their dedication to all Henry Mayo staff, patients and visitors is priceless.”
Since 1974, when President Richard Nixon established the third week of April as National Volunteer Week with an executive order as a way to recognize the efforts of volunteers nationwide, every sitting president has continued the tradition, issuing proclamations to honor volunteers, urging people to get out and volunteer in their own communities.
“We can’t thank our volunteers enough for all their contributions to the city and our community — they truly make Santa Clarita a better place,” said Tess Simgen, the city’s volunteer engagement coordinator. “The past year has been challenging for everyone, but that did not stop our volunteers from helping out when and where they could.”
The city also announced it’s now a certifying organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, established by President George W. Bush in 2002 to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity, allowing the city to recognize its most exceptional volunteers who had volunteered more than 100 hours in the past year.
The city’s first recipients of the award included Jose Gonzalez, Steve Ioerger, Lynn McKenzie and Richard Piccini in the adult group, who were recognized for helping to build and maintain the city trails; and young adult Mia Simgen, who volunteered for almost 150 hours in the Public Works Department from July to November of last year.
“The five volunteers who qualified for this award, amidst the pandemic, are a testament to the dedication and commitment of our volunteers,” Simgen added. “I’m pretty sure more of our volunteers will receive this award in the future as we resume our programs and events.”
As the pandemic has started to ease, the hospital has been welcoming more and more volunteers back to its campus, including some volunteers working in the COVID-19 vaccine clinic.
“We are so grateful for all the hours of service our volunteers so generously give,” said April Garcia, manager of Volunteer Services at Henry Mayo.
Both the city and hospital encourage residents to recognize the positive impacts of volunteerism in their community.