Mercy Mt. Shasta volunteer has been welcoming face for 50 years

Skye Kinkade
Janet Mathews welcomes patients to outpatient surgery. She is one of the charter members of the Mercy Mt. Shasta Auxiliary and has volunteered for 50 years.

Janet Mathews was one of the charter members of Mercy Mt. Shasta Auxiliary in 1970. Fifty years later, she’s still volunteering her time at the hospital.

“It’s just very rewarding,” said Mathews, 78. “It makes you feel good, like you’re contributing to the community.”

COVID-19 has derailed the auxiliary’s face-to-face volunteer schedule, but before the pandemic, Mathews worked in outpatient surgery. She welcomed patients, made sure they were comfortable and kept up on patient charts – “busywork,” she calls it – so nurses can concentrate on other things.

Mathews began working at the Mount Shasta Hospital at age 14, when it was located on Eugene Street.

“I was a tray girl,” she said, taking dirty trays off the dumbwaiter, cleaning them, and preparing them for the next patient.

The hospital is where she met her late husband, Jim, who was a laboratory technologist.

“When the kids were big enough for me to be out and about, I volunteered at the hospital,” said Mathews, who also had other jobs over the years at the offices of Dr. Duane Brooks and Dr. Gene Cleaver. “It seemed like the logical thing to do.”

Other charter members of the auxiliary include Dr. Donald Ratley’s wife at the time, Carla Ratley, and the wife of one of the radiologists, Mathews explained. It has been going strong since, providing a variety of services for the hospital and the south Siskiyou community.

The auxiliary – which currently has 46 volunteers – runs the hospital’s transportation program, providing rides for patients to and from medical appointments. They run the hospital’s gift shop and man the front desk, directing patients and visitors to their destinations. A few volunteers, including Mathews, work in outpatient surgery, as well as in med/surg and the emergency room, said Kerri Gilliam, a project assistant at Mercy.

Mathews said she most enjoys helping people and nurses in their jobs. She’s missing the social aspect of volunteering since the pandemic struck.

At the beginning of the year, Mathews took a leave of absence from her volunteering duties to care for her husband. Jim has since passed, Mathews said, and she will be happy to begin her volunteer work again when COVID-19 allows.

Over the years, Mathews has volunteered in the Care Center, which has since closed, and for Mercy Hospice. She has chaired various fundraisers for the Auxiliary, including their annual golf tournament. She served as president of the volunteers in 2000 and 2002.

Funds raised during auxiliary events go to provide scholarships for local students and to purchase items for the hospital. Last year, Gilliam said, the auxiliary purchased a handheld newborn hearing screening tool in the amount of $4,745, as well as a ventilator that cost $23,000.

Total donations to Mercy Mt. Shasta over the past 43 years are more than $600,000, Gilliam added.

During her time with the auxiliary, Mathews has been honored as Volunteer of the Quarter in 2004 and the Outpatient Chair in 2007.

This week, Mathews received her 50 year pin.

She said she’d suggest volunteer work to those who want to do something worthwhile with their time.

“It gave me a purpose, something other than being a wife and a mother. I think that’s important,” she said.

Those who are interested in learning more about volunteering with Mercy Auxiliary can call Gilliam at (530) 926-7147.