By Caroline Rosacker, Guttenberg Press

During the COVID-19 pandemic the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics (GMHC) hired front door screeners to greet patients and guide them through the check-in questions. At that time, hospital staff members recognized what an asset it was to have someone there to greet patients.  

Volunteer Greeter Program 

“In the fall of 2022, we conceptualized a volunteer program and reached out to other hospitals regarding their programs,” commented Amy Speed, Director of Marketing and Development. “We launched our program in March of 2023, with Becky Shaffer being our first volunteer greeter.”  

Becky Shaffer of Guttenberg had previous volunteer greeter experience and was very helpful in guiding the hospital’s program.  

“Becky not only greets our patients, but escorts them to different departments if they need guidance, and most importantly, visits with them to pass the time while they are waiting. She also has met with some folks in the chapel” Speed told The Press.  

The volunteer program began with mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The hospital added another greeter, retired nurse and former hospital employee, Deb Schlueter, in June. “Our program is very flexible, in fact, Deb is away during the winter and will step back into her position upon her return in the spring” noted Speed.  

Positive feedback 

GMHC has received positive feedback on patient surveys proving that the program enhances patient experience. In October, one person commented. “Loved visiting with your greeter!”  

The healthcare facility hopes to expand their volunteer program to five days a week, and more hours per day. Potential volunteers will go through an interview process and will be trained for their very important role as the first person to greet patients.  

Becky Shaffer 

Although Deb Schlueter is enjoying time away from her volunteer position, The Press was able to sit down with Becky and visit with her about her involvement in the program.  

Mike and Becky Shaffer took advantage of their part-time residence on Esman Island and used it as their full-time home during the Covid-19 pandemic. The couple decided if they had to shelter in place they would rather be on the island watching the Mississippi River flow by, than living in their permanent residence in nearby Cedar Rapids.  

The Shaffers purchased their island get-away in 2005 and spent many long weekends enjoying all the amenities Guttenberg has to offer. “We were always on the go and quite busy,” said Becky. “When we were encouraged to shelter-in-place our lives slowed down and we experienced living in Guttenberg through a different lens.”   

The couple enjoyed their new lifestyle and decided to make Guttenberg their permanent residence. “Mike is able to work from home, but still drives back and forth to Cedar Rapids when he needs to,” she explained. “To our great surprise our children have relocated to this beautiful community as well! Our son, T.K and his wife, Lisa live in the Estes Point area, and our daughter, Shannon purchased property in the River Ridge Acres subdivision and is set to build in the spring.” 

Giving back to her community 

Becky sought out volunteer work almost as soon as they were settled in and able to be social. “We have always been so impressed with the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics. It was one of the main reasons we choose to live full-time in Guttenberg,” she said.  

Amy Speed approached Becky about volunteering as a greeter in the main lobby of the hospital. “I had done this kind of volunteer work at Mercy hospital in Cedar Rapids, so I was familiar with the protocol. Confidentiality is a must,” she stressed.  

Becky’s cheerful, upbeat attitude helps lessen anxiety in the patient waiting area, but she is also very aware that some people would rather be alone. “I have been blessed with wonderful conversation skills. I can talk to just about anyone,” she laughed. ” My goal is for people to leave here with a smile on their face.”  

The eager volunteer is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the hospital for all the excellent, professional care she and her husband have received since relocating to Guttenberg.  “Volunteering at GMHC gives me a reason to stay active in the community and help others,” Becky commented.  

Small town connections 

The Shaffers have also experienced many small town connections. “When we met Juanita, and the late Russ Loven I found out that my father was Russ’ coach in high school. I heard so many wonderful stories about my father that I had never heard before,” she shared. “The family that lived in our home following the derecho was Norm Kopecky’s brother. Small town connections are so much fun!”  

Becky, who is active in St. Mary’s Church, and is a member of Umbrella Arts, Ingleside Club, and a Stephen Minister leader, is very impressed with the GMHC staff. “They all work together as a team, and help one another,” she proudly shared. “It just makes me happy to be in this environment and they are so appreciative. I love this community and want people to see Guttenberg the way my husband and I see Guttenberg – a great place to live, work, volunteer, and play!”  

Would you like to join GMHC as a volunteer greeter? Apply online or contact Amy Speed at amy.speed@guttenberghospital for more information. 

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