Despite giving their time in a place most people try to avoid, volunteers who staff the Penticton Regional Hospital gift shop find plenty of joy in their work, which has generated a massive financial windfall for the facility.
June Revell-Quevillon, who manages the shop, said she knows her customers don’t usually want to be there, so the sales staff tries to offer a bit of kindness with every purchase.
“Sometimes that volunteer behind the desk is the only sort of contact some people have, and it’s a smile. Some patients talk to you a lot because they have no one to speak to.”
And “it’s happy time sometimes,” she added. “There are new babies, so dads are coming in all excited. So I think it’s the interaction more than anything that keeps us going.”
Revell-Quevillon, who owned and operated June’s Fashions and Gifts in downtown Penticton before closing it to retire two years ago, now oversees a long-term volunteer staff of 30 and has been giving her own time as the manager for 18 years.
“I started as a volunteer (clerk). Loved it. Then the former manager decided she wanted to retire, and I had a background in retail, so she said, “Are you interested?’ and I said, ‘Sure!’”
The gift shop stocks everything from magazines and flowers to frozen meals, clothing and used books.
It’s open seven days a week — “We’re pretty well never closed, except for Christmas Day” — with four volunteer shifts daily, each between three and four hours, Revell-Quevillon explained.
Her helpers are extremely dedicated to the cause.
“It just wouldn’t exist without them, because they take ownership of the shop like it’s their own,” she said.
Profits from store sales are passed on to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, which supplies equipment to the hospital to improve patient care and comfort.
Revell-Quevillon said the shop has raised $500,000 for the foundation since 1997, although it has been in business and donating in some form since 1944, when it began operating the original hospital at what is now the Haven Hill Retirement Centre.
“They have helped to buy hundreds of pieces of equipment for this hospital,” said Janice Perrino, the foundation’s executive director.
“Everything small, everything big, they’ve been there.
“Every campaign that we’ve ever done, they’ve been a part of it.”
Perrino said all of the gift shop’s volunteers are appreciated by hospital staff and patients, and Revell-Quevillon “has just been a major force.
“I’m so proud of her,” said Perrino.
Like every other group that works at the hospital, the shop’s volunteers are also eagerly awaiting word about funding for a proposed $300-million ambulatory care tower, where they expect to eventually be relocated.
“This (hospital) staff here deserve it. They work so hard,” said Revell-Quevillon.
“We have a wonderful hospital, but it would be nice to have something happen soon.”