October 11, 2006
Use of volunteer staff allows gift shop to donate $14,500 for neuroscience research
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News
FLOWOOD, Miss.—When Nell Smith of Jackson rings up purchases at Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s gift shop, it’s more than a routine act of retailing.
It’s also an opportunity to advance neuroscience research. Every sale benefits the Wilson Research Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to fostering better recoveries for people who have suffered strokes or brain or spinal cord injuries.
Gift shop profits recently added $14,500 to the foundation’s budget, a sum made possible by the store’s unique staffing policy. Except for store manager Terri McKie of Madison, all the “employees” are unpaid volunteers.
“It helps cut those bottom line expenses when you don’t have to pay salaries and benefits for employees,” explained McKie. “Thanks to the volunteers, we are able to donate more funds to the foundation.”
The gift shop opened on the second floor of the Jackson hospital in October, 1995. Foundation director Bettye Sullivan of Jackson said the shop’s volunteer workforce has since donated a total of $112,000 to the foundation.
”Their dedication is one reason we have been able to provide $1,707,500 in grant funding over the past 17 years,” Sullivan said. “Our most recent donation was a $457,866 gift to support research at Methodist Rehab’s Center for Neuroscience and Neurological Recovery (CNNR).”
Smith said she has been devoting time to the gift shop almost since the day it opened. A former hospital worker, she likes the feeling of being in familiar surroundings. And she’s proud that she is contributing to such a worthy cause. “I think that’s the great thing about volunteering,” she said.
“It’s fantastic,” agreed Walter Redden of Jackson, a retired traveling salesman who has devoted 10 years to volunteering at Methodist Rehab. “I wish we had raised three times as much money.”
Methodist Rehab volunteers range from former patients and retirees to people who balance volunteering with careers. “We have a lot of good people who use their talents to reach out to patients and their families,” McKie said. “I’m lucky to have several gift shop workers who have a knack for customer service.”
Billie Jaeger of Madison said her first two jobs were in retailing, so volunteering at the gift shop seemed a logical pastime for her retirement years.
“I like meeting people,” she said. “Some of the patients come in and find things they really enjoy and that makes me feel good.”
The gift shop draws patients, visitors and staff from both Methodist Rehab and the adjoining University of Mississippi Medical Center. And McKie believes her customers like that their purchases have a dual purpose.
“I think people want to shop here because they know the proceeds go to the Wilson Research Foundation. People know how important research is and that it can’t be stressed enough.”