September 20, 2006
First-in-Mississippi certification recognizes dedication of Methodist Specialty Care Center's director of volunteers
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
FLOWOOD, Miss.—When Robby Scucchi recently became Mississippi’s first volunteer director to be certified by the Southeastern Directors of Volunteer Services in Healthcare Organizations, the honor didn’t surprise co-workers at Methodist Specialty Care Center in Flowood.
The Jackson resident has a reputation for being innovative, a trait that has enhanced opportunities for residents of the long-term care facility for the severely disabled.
For example, Scucchi’s recruitment of a volunteer tutor for the center made it possible for Pam Phillips to pursue her dream of passing the General Educational Development (GED) test.
“I always wanted to go to school, but the public schools wouldn’t accept me,” explained Phillips, 42, who was born with cerebral palsy. “It means a lot to me to be able to get my GED.”
It will mean a lot to Scucchi, as well, because he’s nothing if not devoted to the interests of the center’s 58 residents. Name a desire, and Scucchi finds a way to fulfill it – whether it’s a day of spa-like pampering or a night at the ballpark.
Scucchi stresses that none of this would be possible without his impressive cadre of dedicated helpers. Since arriving at Methodist Specialty Care in November, 2004, he has inspired 128 people to sign on as volunteers.
“His enthusiasm is contagious,” said pharmacist Emily Schmitz of Brandon, one of 15 members of the Junior Auxiliary of Rankin County who have promised to contribute a total of 150 hours of service this year. “I think Robby has been so successful because he is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. He comes up with these ideas and then tends to every detail,” Schmitz said. “He makes the volunteer’s job so easy and enjoyable.”
Scucchi said he encourages potential volunteers to look at their interests and hobbies and seek out a position that fits what they like to do.
“One of the best things about volunteering is that it’s an opportunity to do something you really enjoy,” he said. “The rewards of volunteering also include socialization, opportunities for learning and the satisfaction you get from helping someone out of the goodness of your heart.”
Scucchi came by his own compassion honestly enough. It was his late mother, Brenda Pearson, who instilled in her son the need to give. "She encouraged us to do things for other people," said the Greenville native.
"My mom was always out volunteering for something, not for the praise, but for the sheer kindness in her heart. She is my greatest inspiration.”
After his mom died of cancer, Scucchi began volunteering as a way to reach out to others who had faced similar challenges. That involvement led Scucchi to Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville, where he served as volunteer services/workforce development specialist for five years.
Becoming director of volunteer services at Methodist Specialty Care gave Scucchi the opportunity to build a volunteer program from scratch. And he has run with it, said Jan Robertson, Methodist Specialty Care Center administrator.
"Robby has a love for what he does, and you see that in his actions every day,"
Take it from Alan Kolodny of Pearl, who dropped any reservations about serving as a volunteer clergy as soon as Scucchi took him on a center tour.
“Robby’s desire to encourage volunteers to reach out and form relationships with the residents – rather than just using volunteers as additional staff -- was a final selling point for me,” he said.
A man of multiple talents, Scucchi handles everything from arranging flowers for center events to practicing disaster drills with aplomb.
But he admits he had to dust off some rusty skills to ready for the Director of Volunteer Services certification process.
“After going through the paperwork process to be granted the opportunity to take the exam, I had to buckle down and study to identify 100 medical abbreviations and answer 37 essay and 50 true/false questions. This is a huge accomplishment not only for me personally, but for my profession,” he said.
Passing the test also set a good example for Scucchi’s many student volunteers, as does his recent selection as Mississippi’s representative on the SDVSHO board of directors.
Scucchi likes serving as a mentor for the young volunteers, and Pearl High School drama teacher Harriet Matthews says she is working with him to expand that involvement. “We have decided to try and work together to have the kids write a play based on something they have learned or gained by working as volunteers with his program,” she said.
Amanda Fontaine tutors Methodist Specialty Care Center residents Pam Phillips and Derrick Evans.