Volunteering: A New Year’s resolution


Care Ambassadors offer complimentary refreshments and plenty of smiles.

If you’ve ever thought about volunteering, you might want to make a New Year’s resolution to at least try it out. And, with its huge range of volunteer opportunities, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center is a great place to start.

Volunteer and Community Resources Program Coordinator Mary S. McCully says, “I want volunteers to know that they don’t need experience to volunteer. We will match them to a role they would feel comfortable in. We provide training so if that’s something that is keeping people away, they needn’t worry. We want to make it as easy for them as we can.”

Here are a few of the Cancer Center’s current volunteer needs:

  • Care Ambassador Cart Volunteers handle the refreshment cart that goes around the Center. Two volunteers work as a team, and it’s a nice opportunity for people who want to volunteer together (husband and wife, mother and daughter, friends, etc.).
  • Patient Guides assist patients coming into the Center for their first visit, getting them to the proper clinic area, pharmacy, restrooms, cafeteria, etc.
  • The Warm Fuzzies Fleece Blanket Project is an ongoing endeavor that can be done at home or with a group of people and then dropped off or mailed in. The free lap blankets are given to patients in the infusion areas or at the inpatient units. The instructions are so easy that groups of children often create the blankets as a service project. And it’s great for people who want to volunteer but live far away or can’t come into the Center.
  • The Hat Project is another ongoing undertaking that can be done from home or with a group and then sent in or brought to the Center. Like the blankets, they are free to patients. Hats should be adult size, knitted or crocheted, and made with soft, non-wool yarn. They’re handed out to patients at the Courtesy Desk, which is in the main lobby of the Cancer Center. One of our volunteers makes 30 hats a month! But we still need more; every hat counts in helping another cancer patient feel warm and comfortable.

If none of those is the right fit for you, there are many other ways to contribute. For example, Karen Pitton has volunteered for several years as a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Board. She likes PFAB because “It gives me an opportunity to work with others to hopefully improve the care experience for the patients and family members who are dealing with cancer. Just knowing that you’re helping other people is rewarding.”

VolNotesPitton knew she wanted to volunteer while she was still a patient and before PFAB was created. It was just a matter of finding the right fit. “It’s really important to find a role you are comfortable in and where you feel you can make a contribution,” she says.

Mandy Higgins started volunteering after her father had been sick with cancer. “I thought if I can give that kind of support to a family member, I can do that here.” She has been with the Patient Education Resource Center for more than two years as a staff volunteer. She enjoys helping patients and families find specific cancer information, giving them support materials about how to talk to kids or family members, and distributing hospice information, and lending out iPads to cancer inpatients and outpatients.

Higgins says, “I like the health care atmosphere, being able to help people when they’re vulnerable, when they’re sick. It’s nice that we can provide so much information that is helpful to them. It’s really satisfying to help their families, too. Sometimes people forget that families also need support.”

With decades of volunteer experience under its belt, the Cancer Center has tried-and-true training programs to help new volunteers understand their new roles.

Parking for volunteers is free.

Volunteering is one New Year’s resolution that just might become a great lifelong habit.

Take the next step:

valentine1Volunteers from all walks of life come together at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, combining their compassion, skills and talent to make a difference in the lives of our patients. Many of our volunteers have been touched personally by cancer, but that is not a requirement to join our efforts. Anyone with a keen interest in helping is encouraged to volunteer. To create a successful volunteer experience, we work hard to match your skills and interests with the right opportunity. Consider Volunteering!


University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.