JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Brooke Army Medical Center celebrated its more than 440 volunteers during a ceremony held April 16 to name the BAMC Volunteers of the Year. The ceremony was held in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, April 15-21.

Several volunteer groups offer support to BAMC, including the American Red Cross, BAMC Retiree Activities Group, BAMC Fisher House, BAMC Auxiliary and Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care.

Army Col. Traci Crawford, BAMC deputy commanding officer, provided opening remarks for the ceremony saying, "Let me tell you why you guys are so special … the things that you guys accomplish, and the team accomplishes here is nothing short of phenomenal.

"You volunteer yourself, your commitment, your passion each and every day," Crawford said. "You are here because of the kindness of your hearts and your desire to serve and to give back. That is absolutely tremendous.

"We could not continue to do the exceptional things that we do without your support," she added.

Last year, BAMC volunteers gave more than 82 thousand hours of their time to the organization, which equates to a labor cost savings of over $2 million.

"Gifted labor, gifted windfall," said Michael Dulevitz, chief of BAMC Volunteer Services. "You are amazing folks."

Dulevitz announced the nominees and winners in the six individual categories, and family and group categories.

Out of four nominees, Linda Comeaux, Medical Mall information desk greeter, was chosen BAMC American Red Cross Volunteer of the Year.

"She knows this facility inside and out, to include phone numbers," Dulevitz said of Comeaux.

Out of eight nominees, Patrick Spencer, also a Medical Mall information desk greeter, was selected as BAMC Retiree Activities Group Volunteer of the Year.

Dulevitz called Spencer a "fixture" at BAMC because he volunteered 2,145 hours at the Medical Mall information desk in 2017. Spencer, who is also the information desk coordinator, volunteers six days a week.

Sandy Montelongo, Burn Center Intensive Care Unit waiting room greeter, was selected by an impartial three-person panel as the BAMC Office of Volunteer Services Volunteer of the Year.

Montelongo has been a volunteer at BAMC since 2016. Her nomination form said, "It is her heart and her history that makes her so valuable to the Burn ICU because she is a burn survivor herself, so she knows firsthand the physical, mental and emotional scars that burn survivors encounter during their recovery."

Phil Lewis, on-call chaplain and Post Anesthesia Care Unit greeter, was chosen the BAMC Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care Volunteer of the Year.

His nomination form said, "He is a selfless servant whose life is built around serving others in direct and meaningful ways by doing God's work."

"I volunteer at BAMC as part of my life effort to assist others in need," Lewis said. "I feel especially grateful that I have been allowed the privilege of serving as a volunteer chaplain at BAMC since 1996."

Aurora Torralva, all-around helper, was selected as the BAMC Fisher House Volunteer of the Year.
"Aurora has been at the Fisher House since December 2009," Dulevitz said. "She has baked and decorated her way into the hearts of the residents and staff."

The BAMC Auxiliary Volunteer of the Year is Sue McCarthy, a popcorn popper in the Medical Mall.
McCarthy, a military spouse who has been volunteering for 63 years, started as a Care Mobile driver at BAMC in 1993, now she pops popcorn in the Medical Mall.

Out of three nominees for BAMC Family of the Year, Ed and Barbara Bowles, Department of Hospital Education Medical Library assistants, walked away with this year's honors.

The Bowles' have volunteered in the BAMC Medical Library for more than 15 years as medical library assistants, donating over 7,000 hours of their time.

The couple serves as the library's historians Dulevitz joked, "because they have been there longer than any of the paid staff."

Three groups were nominated for BAMC Group of the Year, but the Ministry Ward Social Team, Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care, received the award.

Their nomination form stated, "The contributions of the team are significant, tangible and of great impact to the BAMC and Joint Base San Antonio communities … They are trained and talented at encouraging patients, holding hands, offering prayers, serving food and maintaining communication between staff and family members."

Crawford said the volunteers fill in a void by taking the time to simply talk to a patient or family member, help them get to where they need to go or simply sit with them if needed.

"It makes our patient experience better," she said.

Coming to the hospital can be very stressful for patients, but the volunteers help to alleviate their stress, Crawford said.

"Stress is bad on the body … so the less stress, the better they can heal … so thank you, thank you, thank you for what you do," she said.

"Our staff appreciates you as well," she added.

Crawford also took part in the Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care volunteer recognition luncheon April 13 at the Fort Sam Houston Golf Course.

All the BAMC winners also competed for the Joint Base San Antonio Volunteers of the Year awards April 18 at the Warrior and Family Readiness Center on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. They will also be part of the San Antonio United Way Volunteer of the Year awards June 6 at the Tobin Center for Performing Arts.

"Volunteers, you all are the reason we are successful as a hospital," Dulevitz concluded. "You all play your part. You are all heroes in healing."