In September, when Bierman was voted president of the Michigan Association of Healthcare Advocates, it wasn’t only because she still helps people to choose presents for loved ones recovering from surgery. Over the course of time, the Grand Haven Township woman has become more than an advocate for quality medical care — she is an advocate for more advocates.
“It’s important that we, the people, pay attention to health care,” Bierman said. “The hospitals need our voices. It takes only seconds to send your senator an e-mail or, if you don’t have a computer, to make a phone call. There is potentially much more to being a volunteer than going to the hospital and pushing a book cart from room to room.”
The expansion of Bierman’s perspective mirrors evolution of the organization she presently heads. Now in its 63rd year, the MAHA was founded as the Michigan Association of Hospital Auxiliaries. Its members were housewives and homemakers who had time during the day to help raise money for their local hospitals.
Guilds sewed dolls and other items sold in auxiliary-operated gift shops. Committees organized events to raise money for hospital boards to spend. Doctors doctored and nurses nursed.
But, as women increasingly started to work outside of the home, as men became more interested in volunteerism, as hospitals needed more help in serving patients and their families, the ladies of the auxiliary were transformed.
Volunteer workers today comprise an increasingly diverse group that includes retired men, empty-nesters, and college students and others who use service as a way of learning about potential career paths. In addition to making dolls and staffing gift shops, volunteers work in hospital offices; in the nurseries, where they rock babies so that mothers and nurses can take a break; and in emergency rooms, where they tend families of patients in trauma.
To read more of this story, see today's edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.
— By Janet Tyson, Tribune correspondent