Making A Difference: Cottage Volunteers

Jayne Wickman remembers when this was a sleepy beach town in the 1930s, when a hot dog stand and a malt shop welcomed school kids on Cabrillo Boulevard as they congregated after swimming to the rafts offshore. She remembers the original Jimmy's Oriental Garden on that same street, a street where there wasn't much else at the time. If there is a face of Santa Barbara, hers might be it. Jayne Wickman, volunteer extraordinaire.

Jayne's been a fixture at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (SBCH) as long as most can recall. In years:
32. In hours on duty: 17,500. It's the equivalent of nearly 10 years of full-time work, all donated in volunteer service. And that's just at the hospital. She's also a volunteer at the Santa Barbara Mission.

Cottage and Jayne have been paired since the very beginning. Jayne was born in one of the hospital's early buildings in 1919.



A Santa Barbara native, Jayne Wickman was worn many hats
in our community.  At top, from left: picking lemons at the
home she and her husbane, Swede, built; at work in the
US Forest Service office; donning a hardhat for the
SBCH groundbreaking ceremony in 2005. 

Bottom: at work with the Public Affairs volunteer committee,
Jayne with Jane Uyesaka, Elouise Paez, and Si Russo.



She graduated from Santa Barbara High School. Her late husband, Richard "Swede" Wickman, was a longtime city fire¬fighter for Santa Barbara, serving as fire chief for five years before he retired in 1975.


Jayne worked with the U.S. Forest Service for 17 years -- in accounting and as public information officer -- tallying the costs of fighting specific fires and providing media updates on fires. So it's no surprise that she's such a valuable volunteer at Cottage, at the surgery information desk and in development and public affairs.

It was after Swede had an extended hospital stay at SBCH in 1974 that she said to him, "When I retire, I'm going to be a pink lady." Back then, most of the volunteers were women who donned pink smocks. Now times have changed, and the hospital's volunteer team is a diverse group of men and women, young and young-at-heart.

The attitude of the volunteers and nurses, and the care they provided to Swede, inspired Jayne to march into the hospital just two months after she retired in 1977. She was back to fulfill her pledge. And a pink smock she acquiredŠthe inspiring attitude she brought with her.

Looking back on her 32 years of service, Jayne credits her volunteer work with keeping her young (she celebrated her 90th birthday this year). "It's added a lot to my years," says Jayne, while her fellow volunteers chide her for being too modest.

"Jayne isn't taking credit for all she's done," says Elouise Paez, fellow volunteer and childhood friend. "My daughter always says, 'Jayne is my mentor.'"

Indeed, Jayne inspired both Elouise and Elouise's daughter, Julie Boller, to become volunteers. But the list doesn't stop there. It includes Jayne's own family: Swede volunteered with Cottage for many years, and daughter Sharynn volunteers, often alongside Jayne at hospital events.

As someone who thrives around people, Jayne is perfectly suited to her role at the surgery information desk-keeping families informed when their loved ones are in surgery. When the hospital began scheduling more surgeries on Saturdays, Jayne and fellow volunteers on the surgery committee didn't hesitate before offering to increase their weekend hours.

"Someone needed to be there to help the families," she says. "It can be a stressful time for them, waiting for news. They're so appreciative of the information we provide. I've been thereŠI know what it's like. And I know the difference one person can make."

Through the years jayne 's seen many changes in the hospital and held many roles, from her early days delivering patient menus and working in the gift shop and the emergency department, to phoning Lifeline clients to test their emergency call devices, to serving as Auxiliary president.

At Cottage Baby Fairs (more than 20 so far) and a multitude of other community events, Jayne has faithfully volunteered her assistance. She witnessed the beginning of the pet assisted therapy (PAT) program, which began with one nurse's very lovable Samoyed.

The popular PAT program has grown to include 40 canines, and now Jayne says she always keeps dog treats with her at the surgery information desk: "Millie [a King Charles Spaniel] charms the whole waiting room. People just love her. But she always comes to say hello to me first, before she sets about her work. She knows I have the treats!"

In fact, Jayne is recognized by just about everyone at the hospital. She enjoys working with the doctors. She knows what kind of chocolates each prefers-it's true that she brings treats for employees and physicians, too-and what their workday habits are. "I've been here long enough to see physicians have children and then grandchildren," she laughs. "And I run in to many of them around town. We have fun joking together."

After all the positive stories of working with patients and families, Jayne pauses and remembers one of her favorite changes to the hospital in recent years, "The nice new parking lotsŠI don't even remember where we parked before!"

Sometimes it's the simple things that make a big difference.



Learn more about volunteering at Cottage here.


Read other stories from the Fall 2009 Cottage Magazine here.