On Tuesday, October 29, Charles Gillean received a Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award. The award recognizes the contributions of volunteers who have made a positive impact in their communities. Gillean has been volunteering at Bayhealth for three years.
“Although I have only been at Bayhealth for around three years, I have been volunteering most of my life,” Gillean said. “I began doing volunteer work early in my career and, after I retired, I sat home for almost six months. I knew I had to find something to do. Everyone asks me why I chose the hospital and I honestly can’t remember why. I did volunteer in Bryn Mawr many years ago so maybe that had something to do with it. I remember when I volunteered there and we had bad weather, I had a vehicle that could get through the snow and ice, so my job was to transport people to and from the hospital.”
Gillean volunteers as a greeter, helping get people locate where a loved one’s room is and answering questions. However, he also works in several other departments in the hospital. He is a member of the Patient Advocate Department and was a critical part of the transition from the Clarke Avenue facility to the new hospital.
“I am also known as the Cookie Man,” Gillean said. “I work in the catering office and bake about 35 dozen cookies each week. It is a poorly kept secret that hospitals actually run on freshly baked cookies. I was actually in Walmart one day and someone yelled out “Hey, Cookie Man!” so my reputation has gotten around.”
Gillean calls himself a “service brat” who was born and raised in Asia. He came to the United States to attend university and stayed. He retired from the purchasing department of what he describes as a “global 100 company.” He enjoys the good feeling he gets from volunteering.
“It is part of my Asian background,” Gillean said. “My mother was Japanese and a Buddhist. They have a strong concept of karma. She taught us the importance of building good karma so I feel like my helping others is a great way to do that. The most challenging part of my job is making sure people understand what I am telling them. This new hospital is big and you can tell people who are coming in for the first time because they look overwhelmed. Room numbers here are four digits and sometimes people don’t hear all the numbers. I just want to make people feel comfortable as possible.”
One of the best parts about the new hospital is that it has no ramps like the Clarke Avenue facility had, making it easier to assist patients who are in wheelchairs.
“Pushing a 200- to 300-pound person up those steep ramps was very difficult,” Gillean said. “It was even worse when you had to push them down the ramps.”
Gillean is flattered that the hospital nominated him for the Governor’s award and feels that the hospital is an excellent place to volunteer.
“I believe that 90 percent of it is just being there,” Gillean said. “I simply want to help in anyway that I can. I want to make sure everyone who comes in this building gets the assistance they need, whether it is comforting them because a loved one is very ill, helping them find the place they need to go or assist them with their concerns.”