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Monday, December 17, 2018

25 years—30,000 hours as a volunteer.

Part 31 (Written 2004—updated)

(Continued from three weeks ago)

Hospital Volunteer at EHMC

I had already started working on a part-time basis at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, while Elliot Brooks, the senior vice president for Human Resources, looked for a permanent assignment for me. Upon leaving HUMC, I told Mr. Brooks that I was now interested in a full-time volunteer position instead of a part-time one. The problem was that, by far, the majority of volunteers worked anywhere from only a few hours a week to a few days a week. Full time volunteer jobs were just not a part of the organizational structure. I was interviewed by several departments, but none of them had enough work for a volunteer on a full-time basis.

Finally, when he ran out of ideas about where to send me, Mr. Brooks said that maybe I could be of use right there, in human resources. A similar statement had been made to me by Siegfried Ullmann to Salomon Fischmann when I was interviewed for a job at Phillip Brothers. Once hired there, I worked there for 36 years. Now Mr. Brooks was putting me to work in human resources, and as of the writing of these lines, I have only a little less than 12 years under my belt, on the way to 36 again.

(At the time of my working on the third edition of “My Stories” I had just (2018) completed 25 years at the hospital with over 30,000 hours of work. I received a special award for having completed that milestone. Although I am not working in HR anymore (2018), I have retained the friendships I developed there and I am always greeted with hugs and kisses.)

I want to say a few words about Mr. Brooks and the staff of the human resources department. I found the attitude toward me to be unbelievably different when comparing HUMC and EHMC. I am referring to the beginning of each of my relationships with both institutions. Naturally I do not want to generalize, but rather to limit my comments to those few individuals with whom I came into contact. At HUMC I was a worker whose hands were to be utilized, but whose brain was to be deposited at the entrance door. They wanted to hear no comments or suggestions from me, and I either did what I was told, following their instructions, or they had no use for me. When I asked for an explanation, not only was none forthcoming, but their tone and attitude toward me was totally unacceptable.

At EHMC, on the other hand, right from the beginning, I was treated with courtesy and understanding, and those who interviewed me in the various departments were apologetic that they had no opening for me. I never expected to be treated as an equal, since after all, a volunteer is a worker here today and maybe gone tomorrow. Maybe he comes back the following week or month, or maybe only after the summer is over. An employee has responsibilities toward his employer that go far beyond the responsibilities of a volunteer toward those to whom he reports. I have stated many times that, therefore, I always wanted to be considered an “unpaid employee,” rather than a volunteer.

Right from the beginning, Mr. Brooks made me feel at home in human resources and, as time went on and I developed excellent relationships with everyone in the department, I became part of the “club” of co-worker friends. Never did anyone make me feel that I was “only a volunteer,” even if I sometimes joked about it.

Why is everyone being treated at EHMC as if they were on the same level on the Table of Organization?

The cause is management in the department, and senior management at the top levels of the organization. Consider Mr. Kane, who, over the years before he left the hospital, would not miss a single opportunity to come over to me in the cafeteria to wish me a Happy New Year before the Jewish holidays.

And it was Mr. Kane, and certainly now also Mr. Duchak, who when having lunch in the cafeteria, would not be concerned about who was sitting on the right or left or across. VP, RN, clerk, maintenance crew, linen worker or volunteer, everyone was part of the conversation. And not only the president, but all the other officers of the hospital, were “infected” by that same wonderful and healthy attitude toward one another. And in human resources, there was Mr. Brooks to lead by example and the rest of the crew, managers and clerks alike, followed.

Even now, after nearly 12 years and almost 16,000 hours of volunteering, we are all one big happy gang. We eat together, we laugh together and we work together as equals. In almost 55 years of working in various capacities and at various levels of responsibility, I have never felt as comfortable as I do in that office.

By Norbert Strauss

 (To be continued next week)