Longtime hospital volunteer Bob Allen might believe that people remember him because of his wardrobe or simple name. But if you ask anyone who has met him, they’ll tell you it’s so much more than that.
“He’s possibly the most positive person I know, and he’s so loyal to this department,” said Jenny Janiec, a registered nurse in Poudre Valley Hospital’s emergency room. “He has true empathy — as much for us as for the patients.”
Bob has accumulated 6,000 volunteer hours at PVH, and all but two of his 11 years volunteering have been spent in the PVH ER. In the emergency room — which saw more than 53,000 patients last year — Bob cleans exam rooms, makes beds, stocks supplies, transports patients in beds or wheelchairs, responds to requests from patients and the medical staff and visits with family and patients.
“I win every time I walk into this place,” Bob said. “I keep pinching myself.”
His ER teammates feel just as lucky to have him, and it’s the reason why Linda Fisher, UCHealth regional director of Volunteer and Guest Services, nominated Bob for United Way of Larimer County’s National Volunteer Month Hero Award. (It was announced May 6, 2017 that Bob won that award. Read that updated story.)
“Bob is the epitome of what I hope to find with all volunteers,” Fisher said. “He has touched so many patients, families and staff members that I feel his presence is immeasurable.”
Volunteering is a journey of the heart, she explained.
“It’s not just about placing volunteers,” Fisher continued. “It’s about speaking to what they love to do which is a powerful engagement measure for the volunteer. That engagement shines when they volunteer which is why everyone just loves Bob.”
Bob’s late wife, Barbara, introduced him to volunteering. She had been volunteering at PVH for several years when she suggested that he might enjoy it too. And he did.
The two worked together at the ambassador’s desk — Barbara first training Bob — at PVH’s front entrance. And Bob, in his black pants, white T-shirt, and purple volunteer shirt, would deliver flowers to people’s rooms and help visitors find their loved ones’ rooms.
After dropping off flowers one day, a patient — Bob remembers her as cheerful and very nice — turned to Bob and said, “Can I have communion now?” The look on his face gave her the answer, and they laughed together at her mistaking him for a priest. Then two weeks later, another patient said, “Thank you, father,” as he left the room.
“The black pants had to go,” Bob chuckled.
And though he traded in the black pants for white ones, he’s still mistaken for a minister sometimes — probably more about his kind eyes and comforting demeanor than his manner of dress.
“Robert Ingersoll stated, ‘We rise by lifting others,’” Fisher said. “Bob lifts us all by his compassion, caring, loving spirit, but most of all, his eternal dedication to UCHealth and Poudre Valley Hospital.”
Bob comes to the ER each Christmas. It’s not his shift, but he knows that his ER team has a long day ahead of them, so he brings his homemade “Special K” bars to revive them.
As a volunteer, he trains other ER volunteers, including up to 15 students a semester. For Bob, it’s exciting to see the young students anxious to learn. He has an appreciation for their drive to jumpstart their careers, he said.
For Fisher, Bob’s understanding and empathy with patients and families, which shines through in training, is extremely valuable to UCHealth and its new volunteers.
When the new PVH ER opened Feb. 26 as part of the hospital’s expansion, Bob came in at 5 a.m. to help open the doors.
“The staff was ecstatic that he was going to be able to help them that day,” Fisher said. “Bob is a valued member of the emergency room team, and they knew they needed him there as part of this historic day. I think that speaks highly of the respect and admiration that we all have for Bob Allen.”
And Bob feels it too; it’s why he’s stayed so long as an ER volunteer.
“I remember, even my first day (in the ER), how they welcomed me like they had always known me, and everyone is always saying, ‘thank you,’” he said. “There are different strokes for different folks, and for me, this fits.”