Jacoway receives 2010 Elaine M. Hill volunteer of the year award

Everyone in Volunteer Services has a “Pat Jacoway story.” They all agree Jacoway has been a memorable and irreplaceable presence in volunteer services during the 32 years she’s been a hospital volunteer. So much so that she was honored with the 2010 Elaine M. Hill volunteer of the year award.

Jacoway receives 2010 Elaine M. Hill volunteer of the year award click to enlarge Pat Jacoway restocks shelves in the lending library where she now volunteers.

For instance, Pat Jacoway loves Red Hots. The joke is that you always knew where she was in the hospital if you followed the trail of little red candies she dropped as she visited patients. In honor of Jacoway, the volunteer office is permanently stocked with them.

Jacoway has logged more than 8,300 volunteer hours in several areas. She has spent the majority of her time over the years as a one-woman welcome wagon, greeting newly admitted patients throughout the hospital and providing patients and their families with helpful information about the hospital rooms – like how to work the television or telephone service.

Her favorite things to give out, though, were the Carolina blue ball point pens. “You wouldn’t believe the joy people got out of just such a small thing,” said Jacoway. “They were really excited to get something with the Carolina logo on it – if they were Carolina fans. I did have a couple Duke fans to turn them down.” A huge UNC fan herself, Jacoway said the pens were always a conversation starter. “I think it was nice for people to be able to talk about football or basketball  – get their minds off of being in the hospital for a minute.”

That was always Jacoway’s goal. “God gives everyone a talent,” Jacoway said. “Cheerfulness – I think that’s what my gift in life was. Until I was in the hospital myself in 2008, I don’t think I really knew how much pain some of these people were in – how bad you really can feel. If I had known, I don’t know if I could have been as cheerful. I think it’s good I didn’t. But it’s a lot about learning when to talk and when not to talk.”

Jacoway is a cat lover, and wears a cat pin on her volunteer jacket every day.  Just like the UNC pens, it got people talking, she said. “Everybody loves to talk about their pets,” Jacoway said. “People would be in the hospital and they are more concerned about the animal they left at home, you know?” 

In addition to her time with visiting services, Jacoway volunteered for years as a Bible reader.  She read mostly to long-term patients, so she was able to get to know them over the course of their stay. Bowles said that Jacoway would go out of her way to take care of these patients, often bringing them special little gifts to brighten their long days in the hospital. “She’s just that type of person who’s going to help whenever and in whatever way she can,” said Linda Bowles, director of volunteer services.

Jacoway, on the other hand, is more self-deprecating. “I don’t know how much I deserve this award. I told them I should get an award for being the volunteer who always wears an outfit that matches my maroon volunteer jacket,” which is something Jacoway herself takes pride in. “Or an award for being the only person whose car has caught on fire in the parking deck,” she joked.

“She is one of those people who, if she sees a need, or thinks there’s something she can do to help, just does it,” said Bowles. And that, above all else, is why Jacoway is the 2010 volunteer of the year.