Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 25, 2013

Family gives back together

The Blackmans give hope to others at St. Joseph Hospital.

By Mike Fletcher
Tribune crime reporter

Indianapolis — [Editor’s note: In honor of National Volunteer Week, the Kokomo Tribune is recognizing volunteers who make a difference in their community.]

For more than a decade, Jon and Vicky Blackman have greeted visitors and patients at St. Joseph Hospital with an encouraging smile.

They make people feel at home and direct them to where they need to go in the hospital.

But what sets them apart is they are volunteers, not employees.

“It’s kind of special when you see a couple volunteering together,” said Harry Kenworthy, volunteer coordinator at St. Joseph.

For their hard work and dedication at the hospital, the Blackmans were nominated by Kenworthy as the Volunteer Activities Committee’s Family Volunteer of the Year for 2012.

The awards program honors outstanding volunteers in Howard County in five categories - adult, youth, senior, group and family. The VAC is a program of the United Way of Howard County.

“For me to see a couple who obviously have a good marriage and want to do things together - it’s really special,” said Kenworthy.

Both are retired factory workers who wanted to give back to the community.

Jon and Vicky have given 1,597 and 1,062 hours, respectively, volunteering at St. Joseph Hospital. Jon has volunteered for 10 years while Vicky has volunteered for 16 years.

Vicky started volunteering in 1997 in the hospital’s cancer center, which she said means a lot to her since she is a cancer survivor.

“After going through that experience, she wanted to give back to the community and the hospital, where she received good treatment,” said Kenworthy. “She prefers to be a greeter saying, ‘I can relate to the people coming through those doors.’ It’s very meaningful to her to greet people coming into the cancer center.”

“The hospital treated me so well and the people in oncology are so passionate, I decided I wanted to give something back,” said Vicky, an 11-year breast cancer survivor.

“Dr. [Phil] Burgan worked here back then and took the time to talk to me and was very compassionate,” she said. “That’s one reason I wanted that position.”

The patients, she said, seem to be more relaxed when they hear she was a survivor.

“That kind of lights up their eyes and gives them hope,” she said.

Her husband, Jon, began volunteering after he retired from Chrysler.

“I got him started,” said Teresa. “I told him after he retired he needs to get involved.”

And that’s what Jon did.

He volunteers twice a week as a greeter at the main entrance and at the volunteer information desk at the hospital. At the main entrance, Jon finds patient room numbers for people, pushes wheelchair patients and escorts visitors to their destination at the hospital.

At the information desk, Jon dispatches other volunteers to run errands such as transporting equipment, delivering food trays and performing clerical work.

“I enjoy helping people and I enjoy the general camaraderie,” said Jon.