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Volunteering at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, Eckerd Living Center brings joy to all

I am anticipating the arrival of spring even more than usual this year. Of course, I’m looking forward to the milder temperatures and the explosion of green on our Plateau, but I’m also elated that we are in a different place with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic we have faced these past two challenging years.

Thankfully, virus transmission is down, mask requirements are easing, and people are going out again. That doesn’t mean we can let down our guard completely, however. We are still observing universal masking here at the hospital, practicing excellent handwashing hygiene, and distancing as appropriate to assure our hospital and nursing home are safe. 

One of the things I’m most excited about is welcoming volunteers back to Highlands-Cashiers Hospital (HCH). Since we’ve been in “shutdown mode” for so long here at the hospital, I know every HCH team member and Eckerd Living Center (ELC) resident can’t wait to see some new friendly faces.  Not only do volunteers perform essential work and beautification here at the hospital and ELC, they bring a loving spirit that permeates our spaces. We so deeply appreciate that intangible but critical spirit.

If you have volunteered in the past at HCH, we will happily welcome you back; if you haven’t volunteered here yet, but are looking for a great opportunity to help your community, this is definitely it. And as any volunteer will tell you, the gifts they get back in return from giving their time and energy to HCH is immeasurable. 

There are a multitude of work opportunities here, depending on what your individual interests and talents are. You can help at our main reception desk, welcoming people and ushering patients to their destinations, assist staff in other ways, such as helping with administrative tasks and distributing reading materials to patients and work with clinical staff on whatever needs doing, from cleaning a screening machine and restocking supplies to offering a patient some comfort. 

For volunteers with green thumbs, the Mountain Garden Club keeps the ELC gardens looking beautiful. The ELC gardens, as you can imagine, offer much healing to our residents and their visitors. Volunteers also keep ELC residents company and offer important opportunities for them to socialize. I’ve know that our residents have really missed interacting with our volunteers and the energy volunteers bring to the facility. Volunteers have even been drafted for calling BINGO games, so the possibilities are endless.

We’ve talked many times in this column about how healthcare providers are called to work, and to truly make a difference in people’s lives. Volunteering at HCH gives people who aren’t in healthcare the same opportunity to be rewarded by working with patients and supporting our great healthcare workers.

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteer opportunities with us, go to our hospital website,, and click on the “Volunteer at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital” link, or call our Volunteer Coordinator Jeannie Macleod at (828) 526-1345. Our volunteer application can be accessed on that page as well.  We will contact you and support you in completing required activities to become a volunteer.  You will be required to complete some pre-volunteer activities which include background checks, health screening, and education.  

In thinking about ways you can give back to your community, there’s no better choice than to volunteer your time and service to HCH, and we deeply appreciate it. 

Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. Neal is a proven leader with more than 30 years of progressive healthcare experience. Prior to his role at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, he held the position of Chief Executive Officer of Community Health Systems (CHS) and served as Chief Executive Officer of both Berwick Hospital Center in Berwick, Pennsylvania, and Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Ronceverte, West Virginia. Tom has an MBA from the University of Louisville, MHA from the California College of Health Sciences, BSN from Regents College of New York and an ADN from Jefferson Community College.

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