ParkView auxiliary member wins state title

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 28, 2002

[01/27/02]Charlie Trahan likes to keep a low profile, although his impact on ParkView Regional Medical Center hasn’t gone unnoticed.

For this Cajun who has, among other tasks, cheerfully answered the phone at the hospital’s information desk for more than two years, his volunteer services have garnered him a state title. Charlie Trahan is the Mississippi Hospital Association’s 2001 Volunteer of the Year.

“I was a little embarrassed,” he said of winning the state award as well as being named ParkView’s 2001 Volunteer of the Year. “So many people work just as hard as I do. I get embarrassed being singled out.”

Yet he’s been a standout among his peers since he began volunteering with the Auxiliary 2 1/2 years ago.When he joined the Pink Ladies, the nickname given to the women who have traditionally made up the hospital’s volunteer program because of their mauve-colored lab coats, he had a fashion problem. As a man, he didn’t want to wear pink.

I said when I started working here, I’m not going to wear

pink jacket.’ They suggested a long-sleeve, blue jacket but that got too hot delivering the paper,” he said. He and the auxiliary finally settled on his trademark navy vest, now adorned with buttons, medals and an American flag.

Regardless of his uniform, Trahan has developed a reputation for his numerous duties and good disposition.

“He’s really a top-notch volunteer,” said Catherine Price, president of the Auxiliary that has about 40 members who run the information desk and gift shop and perform other volunteer tasks within the hospital. “He puts in countless hours assisting and taking people’s places who have to be out for one reason or another,” she said. “He’s very dedicated to serving at any post in the hospital.”

Each year, the auxiliary chapter selects a volunteer of the year, whose name is submitted at the state Mississippi Hospital Association for the Society of Auxiliary and Volunteer Services meeting. About 20 hospitals are members of the association. Trahan was one of six chosen as Volunteers of the Year in the state.

“Since I’ve been in the organization, there hasn’t been a winner from Vicksburg,” Price said.

Regardless of the recognition, Trahan said he is satisfied by simply helping.

“I’ve been knowing the nuns for years and years,” Trahan said of the Sisters of Mercy, the Catholic order of nuns who founded the hospital and the auxiliary. “One said, You’re going to work hard here but you’re going to get a lot more out of it than the patients do.’ She was right,” he said.

Now 69, Trahan suffers from a few ailments, and has been diagnosed with a pinched nerve near his ear canal that causes severe headaches and vertigo. Physical therapy has helped, but so has volunteering. “When I go upstairs and see how the patients are, I forget about my aches and pains,” he said and smiled.

Newspaper delivery was his favorite job, although he has worked on the surgical floor in addition to his front-desk work.

“I was the paper man,” he said. The hospital’s program that delivered a newspaper to each patient daily was phased out in July after Triad, a Dallas-based hospital corporation, took over Vicksburg’s two hospitals. “I’m hoping they will start up again. It’s a rewarding experience, not just delivering newspapers but visiting with the patients,” he said.

For a retired civil engineer who earned a Purple Heart in Korea, spending afternoons behind the hospital’s information desk would seem like a menial task. For Trahan, it’s a duty.

“This has changed his life when he started as a volunteer,” said his wife, Joan, whom Trahan has recruited to volunteer. “He is so eager. Anytime anyone calls, he’s so eager,” she said. “The little old ladies he’d take upstairs in the wheelchair they’re so appreciative.”

But volunteer work didn’t come immediately upon his retirement.

“When he retired from the government in 1987, he said he wasn’t ready,” Joan Trahan said. Instead, he used his free time on genealogy projects. He joined the auxiliary in 1999.

“I ran out of hobbies, and I needed something to do. My wife was spending a lot of time with her two sisters,” who were in and out of the hospital with his wife in tow, he said. So he began delivering newspapers four days a week.

“Somebody told me I should volunteer to be near my wife,” he said and laughed.

Now the two of them volunteer together, although Joan warns:

“Oh, we can’t work together,” she said, laughing. “He says I talk too much.”