Each April, Lompoc Valley Medical Center (LVMC) celebrates National Hospital Volunteer Week and gives thanks for the generosity of its volunteers.

One thing has remained constant at Lompoc Valley Medical Center hospital since its founding more than 70 years ago: volunteers have readily stepped up to help the community hospital in myriad ways. 

But as with hospitals nationwide, in March 2020, the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus meant LVMC had to send its loyal and trusted Blue Coat volunteers home for the foreseeable future.

Overnight, LVMC went from having more than two dozen Blue Coats at the hospital and about a dozen at the Comprehensive Care Center (CCC) to none. 

For months, LVMC hallways and waiting rooms were empty of this corps of volunteers, who staffed the patient reception desk weekdays from dawn to dusk and took on so many other roles throughout the hospital and CCC.

It was a heartbreaking time for many — unsure whether the pandemic would mean the end of the valuable volunteer program. But after 12 months, LVMC has slowly started integrating the Blue Coats back into volunteer roles at the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

This week during National Healthcare Volunteer Week, LVMC celebrates all of the volunteers, whether they are back on duty or remain at home awaiting the return to a new normal. 

The theme this year for National Volunteer Week is The Value of One, the Power of Many. It is meant to reflect the awe-inspiring acts of kindness by millions of volunteers nationwide, while recognizing the magic that happens when people work together toward a common purpose. 

In a typical year, LVMC’s more than two dozen volunteers provide thousands of hours of service to the hospital and CCC. As an organization, LVMC also benefits from the work of the friendly Lompoc Hospital Ladies Auxiliary gift shop volunteers, who are now back staffing their hospital gift shop.

And there are the countless volunteers of the Lompoc Hospital District Foundation, who make sure events, lectures and fundraising efforts are successful.

In more recent years, LVMC added the Patient and Family Advisory Council, whose members collaborate with hospital executives and staff to help improve patient experience, safety and regulatory readiness.

National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 as a way to recognize volunteers who donate time, share skills or provide vital support to causes.

“In what has been an unprecedented year for all hospitals and health care systems, volunteers remain strong and continue to adapt to the endless changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a statement from the California Hospital Association (CHA)

“Whether in the hospital setting or safely from home, the impact volunteers continue to have is instrumental to the health and safety of their hospitals and communities,” the CHA said.

The CHA encourages people to share stories of volunteerism on social media with the tag #VolunteerstheHeartofHealthcare.