Every Monday morning, volunteers Carol Malashchuk and Nancy Youngers happily greet patients and associates at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph in Wichita, Kansas.

Carol and Nancy both have volunteered at the St. Joseph information desk for more than a decade and even take turns driving to the hospital for their shifts.

The fun-loving pair also plan ways to surprise and delight visitors and staff with matching weekly themed attire, such as pilgrim hats on the Monday before Thanksgiving and Mickey Mouse ears to celebrate the Disney character’s birthday the week before.

“We love to dress up because it completely changes some people’s moods when they see us,” said Nancy, who treats every patient with gentle kindness because she believes her smile can be shared with others who need it.

The two began dressing up when they were assigned to round on patients and hear about their hospital stay. Carol visits patients on the hospital’s fifth-floor Cardiovascular Care Unit and Nancy visits with the new parents in the fourth-floor NewLife Center. Both talk with patients to ensure their visit is “exceptional,” they said. Nancy said most patients report that their care has been exceptional, but she sometimes hears about opportunities for improvement and relays them to the appropriate staff member so they can be addressed in a timely manner.

“We want to make a difference in how the volunteers are perceived and also because we are proud of where we volunteer,” Nancy said.

Carol, a retired schoolteacher, knows the impact she’s made on children’s lives and hopes to pay it forward by making an impact on patients. She’s been at St. Joseph for 12 years. “You can’t control what happens outside these doors, but you can set the narrative for what happens in these halls,” she said.

Nancy is a retired banker and loves to help out when she can. She’s volunteered at all the Ascension Via Christi hospitals in Wichita but has spent most of her 11 years serving at St. Joseph. “If I can get people to smile or say something about our garments, it may turn their entire day around, and I love that,” she said.

Both Nancy and Carol started volunteering at the hospital within months of their retirement and were among the first to be assigned to rounding on patients. In addition, both have served on Ascension Via Christi’s Partners In Caring board. Nancy served as the board’s president and Carol served as the vice president of management and revenue.

“Like all of our volunteers, Carol and Nancy are the heart, soul and goodness of our hospital,” said Carol Lentz-Smith, Director of Guest Services and Volunteers. “They bring so much brightness to people who may have come to us at a particularly vulnerable or painful time of in their life.”


Photo: Nancy Youngers, left, and Carol Malashchuk with their Thanksgiving-week themed hats.