Volunteers draw on personal experiences to provide support.

Twice a week, Carl and Andrea Sutton drive 35 miles each way to volunteer with UPMC Williamsport and the UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus. Andrea helps patients in the Infusion Center, and Carl is Volunteer Chaplain Assistant (VCA) at the Infusion and Cancer Centers and at UPMC Williamsport. When asked if the commute is inconvenient, they reply in unison: “No, it’s worth it.”

Carl has been volunteering since 2014, when he got his start in the emergency department. A retired Canton High School business teacher, he spends most of his volunteer time offering support and prayer for patients, their families, and caregivers. “I had back surgery and a stent a few years ago, and I draw from those experiences to better understand what patients and their families are going through,” he says. “During those tough and lonely times, I want to make a difference for people when they need it most.”

As a mother, grandmother, and retired editor from the Canton Independent-Sentinel, Andrea has always been a people person. “Retirement for me meant looking for ways to stay connected with people in the community in meaningful ways,” she says. Andrea began volunteering not too long after Carl did, beginning at the Cancer Center. These days, as a heart-attack survivor with some lingering cardiovascular issues, she has altered the type of support she does, but her volunteering is still going strong. Whether she is chatting reassuringly with patients, bringing them a drink of water, or helping them find assistance from a nurse or staff member, Andrea is a constant and reassuring face at the Infusion Center, which patients, medical staff, and fellow volunteers truly appreciate.

Andrea with Patient

The couple is part of a group of about 300 volunteers serving at UPMC in North Central Pa. facilities. The Suttons will tell you that volunteering has many rewards. They are part of the volunteer program family at UPMC in North Central Pa., and they have met many wonderful people from all walks of life. They consider their patients, the nurses, the other volunteers, and the staff at both hospitals their second family.

“One thing I have learned from volunteering here is that cancer, heart disease, and illnesses in general are great equalizers. Grave illness does not care who you are or where you come from,” says Carl. “But, kindness, compassion, comfort, hope, those are also things that can be given universally. When we volunteer, we get to put something good out into the world. It is very rewarding.”

UPMC volunteers certainly do put a lot of good out in the world, and they do so in so many ways. For example, volunteers may be out on the floor helping transport patients in wheelchairs or offering other types of support, in offices helping with administrative tasks, or at home knitting caps for infants and making prayer cards. There are volunteer opportunities for teenagers as well.

“Our volunteers do a lot!” says Holly Edkin, volunteer coordinator for UPMC Williamsport and UPMC facilities in Lock Haven. “Carl and Andrea are wonderful examples of how our volunteers can find a good fit for themselves that is really rewarding. Sometimes, there is a patient-to-volunteer journey with UPMC volunteers who wish to give back. Many people just simply want to help. One volunteer comes in to play soothing piano music in the lobby. And the pet therapy volunteers always seem to bring a bit of magic with them when they come through the halls,” says Holly.

“Susquehanna Health Foundation has a wonderful partnership with the volunteer program,” says Holly, who notes that many donors are among the volunteers. “We share a common cause in our respective goals to improve patient lives and outcomes.”

“Our volunteers are so critical in the work we do here,” says Melissa Davis, vice president and COO of employed medical groups at UPMC in North Central Pa. “Their time and kindness positively impact not just the patients and their families but our health care teams, too. Volunteers help our medical teams have more time to focus on the treatment and care of our patients. They are such a blessing.”

Carl, Andrea, and their volunteer peers make a huge difference to so many in our community. Their kindness, assistance, and support are a testament to how UPMC in North Central Pa. provides the best for every patient, every day.

Want to Volunteer Like Carl and Andrea? For more information about the wide variety of volunteer opportunities with UPMC in North Central Pa., contact one of the volunteer coordinators: