A family affair: Josephine Macdonald’s son and grandsons joined the celebration to mark more than 50 years of volunteer service.

Volunteer Josephine still going strong at 93

If you think your nineties are a time to slow down, you haven’t met Josephine Macdonald.

One of our most dedicated volunteers, Josephine began volunteering at VGH more than 50 years ago when she ran a soup kitchen for outpatients. Since then, she has contributed thousands of hours of service for which she was recently honoured at a long service celebration, along with other staff and volunteers celebrating milestones.

Josephine first joined the VGH volunteer corps (as it was called at the time) in 1964, when she was a stay-at-home mom and wanted a greater sense of purpose. She has filled a variety of roles over the years, including volunteer assignments in the Emergency Department and VGH Gift Shop.

Since 2000, Josephine has focused her time in the Palliative Care Unit (PCU). Every Wednesday afternoon you can find Josephine sitting and talking with patients and their families, always ready with a kind word or to offer a cup of tea.

“I make the rounds and see if there’s anything the patients need,” says Josephine. “I know how to be with people who are very ill and I’m there for those who’d like company. I like the sense that I might be helping someone. I’ll keep doing it as long as my feet will get me there.”

Josephine’s way with people hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I’ve seen her sitting in rooms where patients are feeling bewildered and distressed and she treats them with such composure,” says Dr. Wendy Yeomans, medical director, PCU. “Our patients are the sickest of the sick and Josephine’s demeanor is so calming.”

“Working in the PCU requires a depth of commitment because of the 24 hours of training required even before you step onto the unit,” adds Barb Boman, who was responsible for PCU volunteers for several years. “That’s followed by an orientation to the unit as well as to the hospital and then some shadow shifts. It’s a big investment of time. Josephine is a perfect fit for the unit. She’s the kind of person you can talk to; she does this amazing thing and yet is very humble about it.”

And, as if that weren’t enough, Josephine also volunteers her time with the BC Cancer Agency.

As we look forward to National Volunteer Week, April 23 to 29, we take inspiration from and send our heartfelt thanks to Josephine and all our volunteers across Vancouver.

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