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The Value of Social Connections in Buffalo

Holly Daniels | Published on 3/2/2022
Holly Daniels, MAVA's Greater MN Program Manager, recently interviewed Brenda Christensen, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the Buffalo Hospital in Buffalo, MN, which is part of Allina Health

Brenda's favorite MAVA benefit is the Volunteer Impact Leadership Training Series and the network for Administrators of Healthcare Volunteers.


Holly:
You’re new to your role, right?

Brenda:
I’m new to my role, but I’m not new to the benefits of volunteering!

Holly:
What would you say are the biggest benefits of volunteering?

Brenda:
I’d say the biggest benefits are the social connection and being part of something greater than yourself. I believe we’re put on this planet to help each other, and our volunteers believe that too. 

Holly:
What’s unique about volunteerism in Buffalo?

Brenda:
I always say, Buffalo is a great place to live, work, and play. It’s a caring, tight-knit community. I think in a small town, you’re more connected. And in the hospital, the volunteers and patients are often friends and family members. 

Holly:
Are your volunteer efforts still affected by COVID?  

Brenda:
I started at a weird time, when we didn’t have any volunteers. 

Now volunteers are still limited to non-patient care areas during times of rising COVID-19 cases in our community.  As part of our Commitment to Care, Allina Health has continued requiring masks in all our facilities and requires COVID-19 and Influenza vaccinations for all employees, volunteers, students and contracted staff, with limited exemptions for medical or religious reasons. 

Also, the great resignation has affected our volunteer service at Buffalo Hospital.  We have some volunteers who have decided to not return to service due to fear of exposure, masking requirements, and wanting to focus on other priorities in their life. 

I feel the Buffalo/Wright County community is unique in that we have citizens who care for each other and want to support the hospital.  For instance, Buffalo Strong, a community group, was formed to help support the victims of the Buffalo Crossroads tragedy. Since then, the group has evolved to respond to other mental health needs in the community. That bond of connection is important in our community.  As we know, those who are socially connected experience better physical and mental health.

Holly:
What do you enjoy most about your role?

Brenda:
What I enjoy most about my volunteer coordinator role is working with the volunteers.  We have an amazing intergenerational team of volunteers ranging in age from 17 to 80+.  They all have talents and experience to share.  Most of all they have a commitment to serving others and coming forward when called to help. 

Allina Health has a Volunteer Leadership team that gets together monthly to share best practices and challenges. We work collaboratively to discover ways we can be more efficient and provide meaningful opportunities to our volunteer team.  Allina Health’s commitment to whole person care ensures that we care for each other, ourselves and patients.  

Holly:
What would you say is the biggest value of MAVA to you?

Brenda:
MAVA has been hugely beneficial to me — being brand new in my position, I immediately signed up for the Volunteer Impact Leadership Training Series.  The training provided the tools I need to lead, motivate and engage volunteers at Buffalo Hospital. I refer back to the handouts from that training all the time — they are an awesome resource to have. 

I also have found so much value in the network for Administrators of Heathcare Volunteers. I always get some sort of new ideas and it’s a great place to come together to share information, successes, and challenges.