Name change doesn’t alter group’s mission

UF Health The Villages Hospital Auxiliary Foundation volunteer John Kane, of the Village of Caroline, drives a shuttle to the parking lot of UF Health The Villages Hospital.

As the health care landscape in The Villages continues to be enhanced and change, the hospital auxiliary foundation is making its own changes. Perhaps the most noticeable is a new name — UF Health The Villages Hospital Auxiliary Foundation. There also are new opportunities to help hospital staff, continued work in major community projects and the first staff of volunteers at UF Health The Villages Hospital Freestanding Emergency Room across the highway from Brownwood. And after a busy 2019 filled with changes, this year is shaping up to be just as busy. Lou Emmert, the auxiliary foundation’s volunteer coordinator, is most excited about now being able to employ volunteers to engage in imaging transport work at UF Health The Villages Hospital. Volunteers pick up patients from their rooms in wheelchairs, bring them to their testing and radiology and wait to take them back to their rooms. Emmert said it’s a win-win because the volunteer help in imaging transport frees up time for staff members to do other work. “It’s important because I like the volunteers to be active and in other areas and someplace new, and we can help out there,” she said.

The auxiliary foundation is made up of more than 980 volunteers who shuttle visitors and patients back and forth from the hospital parking lot and work in the hospital cafe, gift gallery and Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe in Lady Lake in addition to the new duties. They also engage in special projects, including supporting the Sumter County Chamber in a fall festival, working with the March of Dimes and manning booths at the Annual Home and Garden Show and Chili Cookoff put on by the Rotary Club of The Villages.

The foundation also puts on a couple of major events, including the 14th annual Hearts For Our Hospital Black Tie Gala on Saturday. The event is sold out, but proceeds will go toward the expansion of the hospital’s heart center. Another major event this year is the auxiliary foundation’s Inaugural Hearts For Our Hospital 5K/10K Fun Run & Walk at 8 a.m. March 21 at The Villages Polo Club. For more information regarding both events, call 352-751-8871.

“The Villages continues to be a growing and thriving community, and everything our volunteers do is in support of the community hospitals,” said Frank Faust, executive director of marketing for UF Health Central Florida. “It’s all designed to take care of our friends and neighbors when and if they need us for care. We are eternally grateful for our volunteers. We could not do what we do without their support.”

Emmert said volunteering with the auxiliary is fulfilling and meaningful.

“(Volunteers) want to help the hospital in any way they can,” she said. “They enjoy meeting other people, and they feel like they’re doing something worthwhile.”

To learn about becoming a volunteer with the auxiliary foundation, call 352-751-8176.

Staff writer Julie Butterfield can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5254, or