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Meet the 'Wal-Mart greeter' of Guelph General Hospital

Eleanor Harrison, Guelph General Hospital's volunteer of the year, has been lending a helping hand for 17 years
Eleanor Harrison, the Guelph General Hospital 2016 volunteer of the year, poses in the hospital gift shop. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

Eleanor Harrison jokingly calls herself the Wal-Mart greeter of Guelph General Hospital.

Two or three times a week you can find her volunteering in the front lobby of the hospital's diagnostic imaging department, helping people arriving for x-rays, MRIs and CT scans navigate their way around.

"If they get really grouch I'll come up and say something like 'you know they're doing the best that they can here,' then they usually settle down a bit," Harrison said of one of her roles.

"I can kind of get a feel for people and what they're like."

Harrison was recently named the hospital's volunteer of the year at the hospital's annual volunteer appreciation luncheon.

She has been a volunteer at Guelph General since 1999 and has logged 2,800 official volunteer hours, plus countless others that weren't on the books. Day surgery, emergency, helping organize special fundraisers, serving on the volunteer board: Harrison has done it all.

"I just love dealing with people," she says simply when asked about what she likes about it.

Harrison began volunteering when she retired from a lengthy career in the banking industry.

"I thought 'well, I've got my house all cleaned up now, I got all those things done that you leave when you're working,.' I was going crazy," she said.

"It was so nice after working so long at the bank, where you're up to your eyebrows in paperwork. Here I just come in and get to chat with people, which I love," she said.

The Guelph General Hospital Volunteer Association goes back over 118 years and has over 263 volunteers who work in 14 different roles throughout the hospital, putting in a combined 16,000 hours of volunteer services annually.

Laura Hutchings, director of volunteer services at Guelph General, said volunteers are invaluable.

She said people volunteer for different reasons.

"There is definitely a sense of giving back to the community. There are people who have had a positive experience at the hospital and come back to volunteer because of that experience, existing volunteers who tell their friends and university students," Hutchings said.

University students, she said, of often in pre-med programs and are looking for general experience in a hospital environment to help them see if that's what they want to do.


Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 20 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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