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South Nassau Communities Hospital honors Rockville Centre, Oceanside residents at volunteer luncheon

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Volunteers for South Nassau Communities Hospital came together for the 63rd annual Volunteer Luncheon on April 10.

The hospital’s awards lunch celebrated National Volunteers Week, honored all volunteers and recognized several individuals who have dedicated thousands of hours to helping patients. The honorees included Rockville Centre resident Susan Keller and Oceanside residents Maida Cammarato, Eric Matsil and Eleanor Murphy.

South Nassau’s 375 volunteers contributed a total of more than 42,000 service hours in 2018, according to Anne Marie Fernandez, director of South Nassau’s volunteer program.

Keller, who received the Milestone Award, has logged more than 25,000 hours since she began volunteering at the Oceanside hospital in June 1998. In that time, Keller founded the Compassionate Listener program, where volunteers visit patients to provide comfort and lend their ears.

“I just fell in love with it,” Keller said. “It’s beyond all the things people say about it being fulfilling. … It’s my oxygen. Those three words say it all.”

Keller explained she has learned life lessons from patients, such as flexibility and keeping a sense of humor. “It’s a two-way street,” she said. “People say, ‘Oh you’re giving so much…’ Ok, but patients give me a lot, too.”

Volunteers work in several different areas of the hospital, providing everything from administrative services to music therapy, Fernandez noted. Cammarato has logged more than 15,000 hours in 25 years and now serves as an assistant at the information desk. Murphy has served more than 5,000 hours in 16 years as an assistant at the messenger desk and lobby greeter and escort. Matsil has contributed more than 5,000 hours in nine years volunteering at the hospital’s coffee shop. They all received awards during the event.

“[Our volunteers] provide their time and their talents at no charge seven days a week,” Fernandez said. “It’s nice for patients to see someone nonclinical who’s there to hold their hands if they’re scared about a procedure, provide pet and art therapy, show them to work their phones and TVs … They just give that extra special touch.”

She added that the yearly luncheon is a “beautiful event” to recognize the hospital’s hundreds of volunteers who range in age from 14 to 95. “We’re blessed to have so many of them,” she said.

Honorees received certificates and commemorative lanterns in the spirit of the event’s theme, “Our Volunteers Light the Way,” as well as rounds of applause and standing ovations. After the awards ceremony, volunteers enjoyed lunch surrounded by friends and family.

“This collective group is a wonderful asset to the hospital,” Richard J. Murphy, president and CEO of South Nassau, told the room of volunteers. “Much of what we do we could not accomplish without the support you give us.”