April 24, 2024

Volunteers’ Voices: Why Six Community Members Donate their Time and Talents to Cooley Dickinson

April 24, 2024

At Cooley Dickinson, we recognize and appreciate the positive impact that our volunteers have on our organization. During National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 21 – 27, we highlight six volunteers – and one therapy dog – who are passionate about supporting the patients and families who turn to Cooley Dickinson for care and comfort.

This year, in recognition of this important week, we asked our volunteers why they choose to donate their time and talents and how they feel they are making a difference. Here’s what they had to say.

Volunteer Elise BlackstockElise Blackstock, Mobility Program Volunteer

Working at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital is a deeply fulfilling endeavor for me, one of the reasons is because of the diverse array of individuals at CDH. Each day is a new opportunity to interact with people from various backgrounds, religions, and walks of life. This diversity enriches my experience and allows me to engage with individuals who have unique perspectives, customs, and language. One of the most rewarding aspects is being able to provide care and support to individuals who may not speak the same language as I do. Through these interactions, I’ve honed my communication skills, learning to convey empathy and understanding even without a shared language. 

I believe I’ve made a difference in the lives of patients simply by talking and interacting with them. Sometimes, all they need is someone to listen to, someone to emphasize with their struggles and joys. Many patients just want to share their stories, and I’ve found immense fulfillment in being that person for them. Hearing their experiences, their triumph, and their challenges is incredibly enriching for me personally.

Each story is like a window into a different world, and I love how it broadens my perspective and deepens my understanding of people.  Knowing that I’ve been able to provide comfort and support, even if it’s just a conversation, reassures me that I’m making a positive impact in their lives.

Volunteer Nancy Brossard


Nancy Brossard, Gift Shop

I started volunteering at the CDH Gift Shop because I was bored at home and needed something to do. I already knew one of the other volunteers who was at Cooley Dickinson, and they suggested I come here.

I like working here and I like the people! The hospital needs volunteers, and the Gift Shop is the best part of the hospital!


Volunteer Lisa LiLisa Li, Emergency Department Care Program Volunteer

There are two reasons I wanted to volunteer at CDH. I was interested in going into the field of medicine and wanted to see what it is like actually working at a hospital, and I wanted to help serve the community I am in, outside of my college.

Volunteering at the Emergency Department was especially meaningful to me because I was helped by a volunteer when I visited the CDH ER as a patient. The care I received from the volunteer and the medical providers made me want to do something similar, where I could help those who might be suffering from an illness feel more comfortable while being treated.

I feel myself making a difference when I help communicate between the patients and medical providers. Sometimes patients don’t really express their needs to the providers, even when they just need something small like having their beds adjusted or having a glass of water. I’m there to bridge these gaps and try to create a more positive experience at the hospital by making sure that their voices are heard.

I also feel a sense of fulfilment when I help the medical staff communicate with patients. Since the providers are always busy taking care of multiple patients, it is nice to be able to get their messages across to the patients and help make the process smoother for both sides.

Volunteer Kim Cook


Kim Cook, Coffee Shop Volunteer

I started lending my time to Cooley Dickinson Hospital because I thought it would benefit others. It quickly became clear how much satisfaction I get out of it!

Each shift at the Coffee Shop provides me with an interaction I would never have any other way. And the opportunity to nourish others is truly a privilege.


Rebecca Rice and Puddle the Therapy Dog, Pet Therapy Program

Volunteer Rebecca Rice and Puddles

I am honored to be asked to participate in Volunteer Appreciation Week at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

I have suffered from depression, anxiety, and attention issues all my life, which I have managed with journal and essay writing, bouts of competitive tennis, as well as a medley of prescription medications. I have published a critically acclaimed memoir about widowhood, been a regionally ranked singles player, and completed two terminal master’s degrees. None of these achievements have appeased what Winston Churchill, who suffered from manic depression, called “the black dog.” 

In the fall of 2016, during an especially difficult time, I became the owner of an actual black dog, a Standard Poodle puppy named Puddle. Although I have had dogs for much of my life, I had never encountered one as calm, gentle and trusting as Puddle. Mostly trained when I got her from a breeder, Puddle acted upon my psyche like a drug, calming me, affirming me, bringing me joy every day. 

When she became old enough to become an official therapy dog, I enrolled her in a Therapy Dog Training course offered by Bright Spot Therapy Dogs. When Puddle passed her final evaluation, which involved visiting the mostly bedridden residents of a local nursing home, I was thrilled, almost as happy as when my son had graduated from college or when one of my students wrote a sonnet. I began taking Puddle to my classes at Springfield Technical Community College: she brought calm and laughter to even the most unmotivated students. 

In the spring of 2021, I developed an infected finger, which landed me in the Cooley Dickinson Hospital Emergency Department. When I read about the pet therapy program in the Behavioral Health unit of Cooley Dickinson, I thought, “Sign me up.” 

Since September of 2023, I have been going to the Inpatient Behavioral Health unit every Friday afternoon. The patients who turn up in the day room, some young, some old, all suffering from trauma, adore Puddle. She makes them smile by wagging her tail, offering her paw, allowing her belly to be rubbed. Puddle doesn’t judge anyone. She simply revels in living her best doggy life, which is about the most powerful therapy she can deliver not only to the patients but also to me, her grateful companion. 


Volunteer Tony Silva

Tony Silva, Music Therapy Program

I lead a very blessed life. I have a beautiful house. I’m married to the love of my life and I’m able to make my living doing what I love most: playing and composing music. 

Playing for patients at CDH is my way of giving back. Music is what I have to offer, so I want to give it to the people who need it most.

It is clear from the response I get from the patients that they appreciate my work. The hospital is full of unpleasant sounds of machines, alarms and sometimes by people who are suffering. Live music gives people a break from all that, and helps give people comfort.



Interested in volunteering?

To learn more about volunteering at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, please visit our webpage.