Volunteers at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital — Audrain for the past three weeks have been barred from entering the building. Some are now yearning to help.

This is the first time in the hospital’s history that volunteers have been asked to stay home.

The 105 volunteers mostly work administrative jobs, such as the front information desk, gift shop, transporting blood specimens from the cancer center, other office help and more. They contribute at least 4 hours of work a month, with some doing as many as 40 hours per week, Audrain hospital foundation and Volunteer Services Manager Darla Taylor said.

Helen Golden has commuted almost everyday for nearly 50 years to the hospital as both employee and volunteer. Now, she is homebound.

“If I was allowed to go in I would go in,” Golden said. “It’s lonely especially when you are used to volunteering and now you can’t do it.”

Golden retired in 2017 the hospital’s housekeeping department. She has volunteered in the in the gift shop for the past three years an is secretary of the SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital — Audrain Auxiliary board.

In mid-March, volunteers and board members were asked not to come back as the hospital braced for an influx of patients experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Most of the volunteers at the hospital are over the age of 60 and are at higher risk of contracting the virus. Golden is diabetic and has a blood clot in her lung, she said.

Three weeks is the longest break Golden has taken from working at SSM.

“48 years, five months and five days working in the hospital,” Golden says. “It’s almost like a second home.”

Golden’s granddaughter now does her grocery shopping, and would not let her go volunteer if she tried. Golden is keeping busy though spring cleaning, her favorite game shows and chatting with family members who visit her.

Golden hopes that in the next few months volunteers can return to the hospital. They are going to be needed at the hospital more than ever, she said.

The auxiliary board will have to reschedule several events such as its monthly luncheon and collective goods sale that were scheduled for this month. Volunteer Week, an event to celebrate hospital volunteers originally planned for this month, will also be rescheduled.

“It is important the volunteers get recognized,” Taylor said. “These are people that aren’t helping just our hospitals but our community.”

The hospital auxiliary is a nonprofit organization that raises money for equipment and renovations at the hospital. Since 1954, it has raised a total of $1.7 million in equipment and renovations. As of April 1, the hospital is accepting direct donations of personal protective items and medical supplies, as well as cash donations.

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