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Volunteers around Clark County ring in new year with service

It tracks that a man named Tim Toogood was spending New Year’s Day — and, coincidentally, his birthday — scrubbing out a cat kennel at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

Toogood was among those across Clark County ringing in the new decade, not nursing a hangover or sleeping in, but volunteering. After all, people still need to eat, hospital patients still need visitors and cats still need scratches, regardless of the day on the calendar.

And to those racking up those annual volunteer hours early, it isn’t about making things right with the universe or getting an early start to New Year’s resolutions.

“It needs to be done,” Toogood said.

Millie Howard wasn’t alone on her volunteer shift at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. She was joined by Lucy, her 6-year-old mixed-breed dog. The two made their rounds around the hospital, Lucy trotting along at Howard’s side, visiting patients in need of a little four-legged therapy.

“I get more out of this than anyone else,” Howard said. “I smile for two hours straight. It’s fulfilling.”

Howard and Lucy were among the half a dozen volunteers who turned up to the hospital on Wednesday, helping discharge patients, answer phones and visit guests.

“They’re very committed to service,” said Laura Walsh, the hospital’s manager of volunteer services. “They see all kinds of people coming in, and they see the need. They realize we couldn’t do what we do without volunteers.”

For those who prefer a little human companionship, Jeannette Winterroth and Mary Tierney were on hand with the hospital’s “Relaxation Cart.” The pushcart is loaded high with toiletries, warm hats, books, puzzles and packs of cards for those feeling restless stuck in a hospital bed.

Tierney has been volunteering at the hospital for five years, and was inspired to do so after an older sister spent an extended period in the hospital.

“She just kept talking about how wonderful all the nurses and the doctors were,” she said.

Winterroth said it’s the people who have kept her coming back for six years.

“It’s the interaction with the patients,” she said.

At Share House, a crew of volunteers from Columbia Presbyterian Church were dishing out potatoes, sausage, eggs and fruit to hungry patrons of the shelter and surrounding neighborhood.

A crew from the church volunteers three times a month at the men’s shelter, and Wednesday happened to be the crew’s regular day. Still, said Steve Klump, who was doling out breakfast fixings with his brother, Ted, it’s a “good thing to do” to start the new year.

“(We can) make their life better and get their needs met,” Steve Klump said.

John Hart, who lives in Portland but has been volunteering at the shelter for more than a decade, called it a chance to “hang out with the guys.”

“It’s the camaraderie of the group,” he said. “We always have a good time.”

Holley Walhood has run the shelter’s hot meal program for nearly 12 years.

“It’s hard work, but you get all the good feels from helping,” she said.

Still, that wouldn’t be possible without her volunteers, many of whom are willing to sacrifice a few hours on the holiday shredding roast beef, cooking turkeys and otherwise preparing for the busy holiday feasts this time of year invites.

“They truly go above and beyond,” she said of the crew. “They’re indispensable.”


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