Like many historic traditions at Mass General, volunteerism has been part of the hospital’s fabric since its founding. Every year, hundreds of volunteers donate their time and talents to make the MGH community a better place for patients, families and staff. Whether they fundraise for new programs and initiatives or help to transport patients during their stay, the work of volunteers is a central part of successful hospital operations and positive patient experiences.

“Before becoming president of Mass General, I was a physician in the Emergency Department and worked very closely with volunteers,” says David F.M. Brown, MD, MGH president. “I’ve seen firsthand — and with gratitude — how so many of them bring comfort and compassion to patients and their families during times of stress and uncertainty.”

Every time I walk through the doors of Mass General, I’m inspired and amazed by remarkable people.

—Hattie Kessler, 2023 Jessie Harding Award recipient

One of those compassionate individuals is Hattie Kessler, LVC chair, who has volunteered at the MGH since 2009. In addition to her work with the LVC, Kessler frequently assists with patient discharges and escorts and provides support in the Yawkey Family Waiting Area. In April, Kessler received the 2023 Jessie Harding Award from the MGH Volunteer Department, which is presented annually to a volunteer who demonstrates fervent commitment and generous service to patients and their families.

One person presents an award to another person
David F.M. Brown, MD, MGH president, and Hattie Kessler, LVC chair.

“Volunteers don’t do this work to be recognized, but knowing we’re appreciated feels great,” Kessler says. “Every time I walk through the doors of Mass General, I’m inspired and amazed by remarkable people. This work is enriching and lifechanging, and I learn something from it every day.”

Even Mass General’s youngest patients get to experience the generosity of volunteers. Each week, 60 volunteers spend at least three hours in the Special Care Nursery or the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) cuddling with newborns in need of additional human comfort. They work alongside nursing staff and use different calming strategies to help the babies relax and fall asleep and to support their growth and development.

This year, the Baby Cuddling Program received the 2023 Trustees Award from the Volunteer Department, which recognizes a department or employee for involving, supporting and recognizing Mass General volunteers and collaborating with the Volunteer Department.

Each volunteer has a unique background, experiences and reasons for wanting to give back. For some, volunteering is also a way to learn more about careers in health care and take the next step in building one.

One person presents an award to another person
Debra Burke, RN, senior vice president for Patient Care and chief nurse, presents the Maeve Blackman Award to von Franque.

Max von Franque, a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, currently works in the MGH Fisher Lab and volunteers frequently to assist with patient discharge, special projects and in the MGH Center for Perioperative Care. He received the 2023 Maeve Blackman Award — awarded each year to a college student pursuing a career in health care — and plans to attend medical school in the future. For von Franque, volunteering teaches him to effectively communicate with patients and gain insight into day-to-day hospital operations.

“Most people don’t necessarily want to be at the hospital,” says von Franque. “If I’m able to make their time here a little bit better, it’s really rewarding. There are so many opportunities to make a positive impact on people’s lives as a volunteer at Mass General.”