- Associated Press - Monday, August 28, 2017

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - On Wednesdays, chances are patients and families visiting Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute in Spartanburg will meet 93-year-old volunteer Lyell Garland.

A short distance away, his wife, Shirley, 88, helps keep things in order every Wednesday at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s offices inside the former Beaumont Mill.

The Garlands, who just celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary, haven’t let age keep them from volunteering with the health care system for the past 18 years.

“We enjoy it; it’s very rewarding,” Shirley Garland said. “And I know the people that I work with, which makes a lot of difference, too.”

The Garlands moved to Spartanburg in 1998 and said they soon became interested in volunteering with Spartanburg Regional.

Shirley Garland started working in the hospital’s gift shop before moving to the Beaumont offices, where she gets to use her background as a school district administrative payroll assistant. She works 9 a.m.-noon each Wednesday and handles paperwork and other clerical tasks.

“When I first started here they put me in the gift shop, and I told them I’d be more valuable in the business office,” she said. “And they hadn’t had a volunteer in the business office.”

At Gibbs Cancer Center, Lyell Garland greets patients and visitors at the information desk and assists them with directions and wheelchairs. He said he had to cut back to volunteering just on Wednesdays, but he takes those five hours at the information desk seriously.

“It’s quite a bit involved. So many people coming in here that haven’t been here before, they don’t have the information that’s needed to try and find where they’re supposed to go,” he said. “Most people have somebody that can bring them in and take them where they’re going, but if they don’t, I take them to the location.”

Lyell Garland, who also volunteers with Total Ministries and Mobile Meals, said he chose to volunteer at Gibbs Cancer Center because he is a 28-year colon cancer survivor. The couple was living in Delaware at the time and he had to travel to Philadelphia for treatments.

“I know what the people are going through here who have had treatments,” he said. “I can talk to them and ask them how many treatments they’ve had and how many they have left. I tell them about mine and that God is a great physician.”

Jill Dugaw, manager for Spartanburg Regional’s volunteer services and gift shop, said the Garlands are among the more than 200 volunteers at the main campus, North Grove Medical Park, Beaumont offices and other physician practices.

“Everybody knows Lyell. He’s said to me before that patients will tell him they’ve finished their treatment, but they’re going to miss seeing him when they come in,” she said. “And our business services would suffer without Shirley. She’s able to do something that is challenging mentally, keeps her sharp and has social interaction.”

Dugaw said volunteers like the Garlands are an important part of the health care system’s team, contributing on average $80,000 per month worth of labor.

“There are areas where if we didn’t have volunteers, the clinical staff members would have to run out to the lobby to get the patients, bring them back and help them with paperwork. And that’s going to slow down the process for all the patients,” Dugaw said. “There are a lot of other areas where we’ve started using volunteers where they’ve historically not been used, because it’s a more efficient use of resources.”

Despite having to cut back on some commitments over the years, the Garlands said they intend to keep volunteering.

“God will let us know when it’s time to quit,” Shirley Garland said.

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Information from: Herald-Journal, https://www.goupstate.com/

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