Sophie Jouppe has for years heard stories about volunteering at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. The 15-year-old’s mom and older sister both volunteered at the hospital — her mom continues to do so.
So when Sophie was old enough, she signed up to become one of the more than 600 active volunteers at the hospital, too.
“I always thought it would be kind of interesting to see what it was really like,” said Sophie, a freshman at Battle Ground High School.
Every Thursday, Sophie heads to the hospital for her shift at the medical building’s information desk. From 3 to 5:30 p.m., she answers phone calls, directs patients to medical offices and escorts patients to other areas of the hospital.
“We don’t get that much action,” Sophie said. “I do it with my friend Brittney, so it’s fun and it’s interesting.”
Sophie is one of 240 junior volunteers at Legacy Salmon Creek — the largest hospital junior volunteer program in Washington and Oregon, said Arlene Kraft, the hospital’s manager of volunteer services.
“We’re very proud of it,” she said.
The junior volunteer program is open to dependable high school students who are 14 or older. They’re required to submit an application and, if accepted to the program, must commit to 200 hours of service per year. The hospital also offers a summer junior volunteer program that requires 75 hours of service.
Between the two programs, the hospital recorded 240 teen volunteers in the last year. Many of those volunteers were part of the summer program, but about 80 percent of summer volunteers signed on to stay with the junior program year-round, Kraft said.
“For teens, that’s great retention,” she said.
The junior volunteer program is beneficial for teens looking for service learning opportunities — either for school projects or to pad college applications — as well as youth who are interested in careers in the medical field, Kraft said. And for the hospital, the junior volunteers are an important part of the larger volunteer program, providing evening and weekend coverage the hospital wouldn’t have otherwise, she said.
“These kids have a huge amount of responsibility,” Kraft said. “They recognize how respected they are in the hospital, and I think they really step up to the plate.”
The hospital’s volunteer program currently has about 630 active volunteers who donate about 82,000 hours of service per year. They fill a variety of roles at the hospital, from greeting visitors and assisting patients to working behind the scenes in the hospital’s many departments, Kraft said.
When Kraft launched the volunteer program when the hospital opened in 2005, she had about 60 volunteers. Only one or two of those were teens, she said.
Starting the program and watching it grow has been rewarding for Kraft, who is retiring April 1 after more than 40 years in volunteer management.
“It’s been a great way to end a career,” she said.