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Farmington Hills

Cancer institute needs volunteers

March 13, 2014

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Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Volunteer Alice Lewis

FARMINGTON HILLS — It all started when a church member told Alice Lewis about a volunteering opportunity at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute that she couldn’t ignore.

Since January 2006, the 64-year-old Detroit resident has been walking the hospital halls with her teal, pin-bedazzled smock at the main downtown campus, 4100 John R St. in Detroit, as a volunteer helping patients in need.

She doesn’t really measure her 1,500 volunteer hours in days or years, but in each connection she makes with patients battling cancer. 

“I feel like it is an honor to be a volunteer,” Lewis said. “I feel like I am obligated to give back to society.”

Lewis said she gets pleasure in helping patients, and with her being in good health, volunteering is an obligation.

“A lot of times, the patient just wants to have someone to speak to,” she said. “Just be a listening ear; I enjoy seeing their progress.”

Lewis is one of roughly 150 volunteers at the main campus.

The Cancer Institute has overall about 500 volunteers in various capacities, and more are needed.

The off-site Idell Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center campus at 31995 Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills is also looking for volunteers.

The Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center is interested in people who could volunteer 8 a.m.-noon or noon-4 p.m. Monday-Fridays.

Volunteers may choose to serve one or more days during the week. Some tasks include: providing caring support in the outpatient areas, serving as a guide within the facility, or offering refreshments or a listening ear. Volunteers should be 18 or older. Training will be provided, and volunteers must pass a health screening that includes updated immunizations.

“It is a great opportunity for people to give back and for our patients to be provided that extra loving touch that they need,” registered nurse Laura Zubeck, also Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute director of patient/community education and volunteer services, said. “They make a huge difference. Huge.”

Zubeck said the institute is looking for volunteers who would provide that extra touch toward patients.

“We have a unique group of patients who we try to support in a number of different ways,” Zubeck said. “Our volunteer group provides that extra touch that makes their journey a little easier.”

Zubeck said those interested in volunteering would be asked to provide comfort to the patients by offering them snacks, visiting with them and more.

“I look for people who are willing to go that extra mile: either smile, nod or speak to them. Just provide a little extra at their visit,” she said. “It makes a huge difference. Our volunteers are a different part of that whole piece. We love our volunteers. We take particular pride in cultivating a wonderful, dependable, welcoming group that has really wonderful gifts to bring to our patients.”

In one word, Lewis described herself as being “blessed” to be a volunteer, and others need to think a bit more positively, too, she said.

“When you come down here and you see persons and you see … the stage they are in … their spirits are still high, and go into the world and you see people complaining, you just want to tell them (they) need to come down and see how the people (here) are struggling and they are dealing with it.”

For more information, go to, or call 1-800-Karmanos.

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