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Teens volunteer at TCHC

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For the past quarter century, Margaret Kramer has volunteered in the Tri-County Health Care surgical waiting room.

But last week, instead of a volunteer ID, the Wadena resident wore a hospital gown, as two teenage volunteers from Sebeka brought her meals, kept her company and made sure she was comfortable.

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The two volunteers, eighth-grader Kirsti Savela and freshman Heather Schnoor, were born in the 1990s. Kramer just turned 90.

“You can volunteer all your life,” she told the girls.

Savela and Schnoor are among the 11 participants in VolunTeen, an eight-week program offered in the fall and spring.

“It gives the VolunTeens an idea of what the medical field is like,” said Janet Wiedewitsch, TCHC volunteer coordinator.

The teens were selected from a competitive application process. Before the program kicked off last week, participants completed a mandatory orientation, which covered privacy law, emergency codes and other fundamentals.

Each day after school, two teens spend a couple hours at the hospital, while another teen volunteers on Saturdays.

The kids do “anything to make the patient comfortable,” Wiedewitsch said. “It’s patient-focused first.”

Schnoor’s not sure what she wants to be when she grows up, but she’s considering a career in nursing.

Savela has made up her mind.

“I want to be a doctor, but I don’t know what kind yet,” she said.

Savela said she’s looking forward to spending time in the hospital.

“I just want to see what it’s like,” she said. “I find it interesting.”

As the late afternoon sun beamed into her hospital room last week, Kramer talked to the girls about her own experiences volunteering.

“I like working at the desk,” she said. “I like meeting new people.”

Her favorite part? Visiting newborn babies.

Kramer said she’ll return to at the surgical waiting room as soon as she’s healthy.

“She’ll be back at that desk before you know it,” Wiedewitsch said.

TCHC offers volunteer opportunities for adults throughout the year in a variety of areas, including nursing, cardiac rehab and the gift shop.

For more information, contact Wiedewitsch at (218) 632-8780.

A volunteer applications are available at www.tchc.org/employment-volunteers.aspx.

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