• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Gift shop volunteers giving back to others

BLUEGRASS COMMUNITY HOSPITAL provides space for a gift shop operated by a dedicated group of volunteers. Profits from the sale of items help people in need. From left are hospital CEO Tommy Haggard, Tony Hardin, president of the Woodford County Ministerial Association, gift shop manager Phyllis Colburn and volunteer Dee Sidebotham. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Volunteers don't earn paychecks for running the gift shop at Bluegrass Community Hospital. They get something money can't buy. A two-hour shift at the hospital gift shop can mean being there when someone needs a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Gift shop customers may have a loved one in the hospital or were just told they have cancer. In those situations, gift shop manager Phyllis Colburn will sometimes feel compelled to ask "if I can have prayer with them." And because "I'm a hugger," she'll sometimes wrap her arms around them - "usually crying myself." "No one wants to be in a hospital," says Tony Hardin, president of the Woodford County Ministerial Association, "but it's a way for (these volunteers) to minister to people here." By being there, gift shop volunteers hope they can make the burden "a little lighter" for someone facing a difficult day in their life, Colburn says. "The only time you want to go to a hospital," says Tommy Haggard, CEO of Bluegrass Community Hospital, "is if somebody's having a baby. Any other time, it's an anxious situation . so if they can get a smile and a treat (at the gift shop), it's a win for everyone." Because the gift shop at Bluegrass Community Hospital is a ministry of the Woodford County Ministerial Association, all profits from the sale of items "help people in need," explains Hardin. He describes the ministerial association as a group of local church ministers helping the people of Woodford County. "So when we can take the money that's generated here and we can put that back into the community ... we feel like we're helping Christ," says Hardin, discipleship minister at Journey Church in Versailles. Bluegrass Community Hospital provides space for the gift shop near its main entrance and lobby - at no cost to the Woodford County Ministerial Association. The nonprofit organization works closely with Bluegrass Community Action Partnership to help local families who cannot make a rent payment or pay a utility bill. The gift shop at Bluegrass Community Hospital is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. "These ladies do a wonderful job," says Haggard of the gift shop's volunteers. ".It's a great service for the hospital. A lot of our staff shop down here as well." Colburn, who has been a gift shop volunteer for three-and-a-half years, chooses the items that fill the gift shop's shelves. "They do a terrific job - in a small store - of having appealing items," Haggard says.

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