Monthly Volunteer Spotlight: February 2016 Edition

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Our February Monthly Volunteer Spotlight shines on Jane Unterberger, whose path of volunteerism at Central City Concern is among the more unique we’ve seen! Find out what’s kept her volunteering at the Old Town Clinic since June 2013, why she loves interacting with clinic patients, and why you should consider volunteering, too!

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Name: Jane Unterberger

Position: Volunteer pharmacy technician

Can you describe your volunteer position?
I’ll help out wherever I’m needed for the day, whether that’s being in the front greeting people, getting them their medications and working the cash register. I might be asked to help fill prescriptions or do an odd task that no one else has been able to get to, like returning things that got ordered by accident.

I understand that you have a sort of notable—at least in the volunteer world—trajectory of volunteering with CCC. What led you from where you first started to where you are now?
I work as a registered nurse now, but when I first graduated from nursing school out of state, I moved back to Oregon. And at that time (about June 2013) my sister was in pharmacy school and she was volunteering here at CCC. I didn’t have a job yet, so she was like, “Hey, do you want to come to CCC this Saturday? They need help filing and putting papers in order.”

So I just started coming on Saturdays with my sister. And then Sandy [Anderson, then-head of the Old Town Clinic pharmacy] said to me, “You know what? If you’re ever free during the weekdays we’d love to have your help.” So I started coming twice a week.

Sandy’s very persuasive, isn’t she?
She is! And she was just so incredible to work with. So I volunteered doing those clerical duties for at least a year, even after I got a job. My schedule allowed me to have a lot of weekdays off, so that made it easy for me to keep coming.

And then Sandy said, “If you want to get your pharmacy tech license, you could help out in all these other ways, too.” And I was like, okay!

Deciding to get your pharmacy technician license so that you could volunteer more sounds like it could have been a big commitment.
I had taken pharmacology in nursing school and I’m working with medications everyday at my job, so that half of the test wasn’t too out of my comfort zone.

How do your initial impressions of Central City Concern compare to how you understand the organization today?
I really didn’t know much about it at first. I thought it was just a pharmacy.

But the more I learned about CCC the more I realized what an awesome place it is. It’s so much more than a pharmacy. I mean, it is where someone can get healthcare but it provides so many other services to people who otherwise might not be able to access those services. I know they have that program to help people reintegrate back into the workforce—Clean and Safe— and then housing and all types of counseling. I mean, I don’t even know how many more things CCC does!

What has surprised you?
I never realized you can get so many awesome people all working together. Everyone who works here is so great. The patients are all great. I learn something new here every time. People make me smile every single time I’m here. It’s just one of the greatest places I’ve ever had a chance to work. I really do mean it.

And seeing how Central City Concern changes lives. Seeing people go from being homeless and not having a job or struggling with addiction to getting clean and getting housing and getting a job, and seeing how pivotal CCC’s programs can be for people.

How do you see that reflected in people from where you volunteer?
We’ll have patients who come in who will be on daily dispense for medication for whatever reason—either they’re losing their medication or they don’t have a home so they have nowhere to keep them. Once they’re reliably coming in every day, we can get them to weekly dispense, then gradually to a monthly dispense program. We build that trust and reliability over time. And that sort of reflects the changes that are going on for them outside the clinic, and partly because of the clinic.

Do you have a favorite story from volunteering?
I don’t really have a specific favorite story. But there are some patients who I’ve been interacting with the whole time I’ve been volunteering here and they still remember me. I come in on different days of the week and if they haven’t seen me for a while, even if they’re not coming to the pharmacy anymore, some of them will come up and ask how I’m doing. That means a lot to me, especially knowing that a lot of our patients have probably had some negative experiences with healthcare. And so just being able to be part of a positive experience, I love it.

The world of healthcare is confusing, even for me, and I work in both nursing and pharmacy! Being able to impart a little bit of what I know with patients and to help them understand that we really are here for them and we’re here to help, that means a lot.

What keeps you volunteering now?
I really do believe that healthcare is a human right and that everyone should have access to quality healthcare. And I just feel like this is a great way for me to do my part to make sure that can happen.

The world’s problems won't change unless people care enough to get involved and do something. Every little bit of good you can do to help out makes a difference. Real change doesn't happen from one person doing one huge thing, but tons of people doing little things.

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If you are interested in learning more about volunteer positions at Central City Concern’s health and recovery, housing, or employment programs, contact Eric Reynolds, CCC’s Volunteer Manager, at eric.reynolds@ccconcern.org or visit our volunteer webpage.