Tina Begley, left, and Meseret Lendi have been named the University of Mississippi Medical Center 2019 Volunteers of the Year.
Tina Begley, left, and Meseret Lendi, UMMC's 2019 Volunteers of the Year
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Dedication, compassion, purpose drive UMMC's Volunteers of the Year

Published on Monday, November 25, 2019

By: Kate Royals, Lindsay McMurtray

Caring, compassionate and hardworking are three words you might hear when University of Mississippi Medical Center staff and patients describe the 2019 Volunteers of the Year. Tina Begley and Meseret Lendi, both of whom have volunteered at the Medical Center a year and a half, are being recognized for their exceptional dedication to caring for patients and families.

As the 2019 Children’s of Mississippi Volunteer of the Year, Tina Begley of Ridgeland works in two very different volunteer placements with UMMC’s youngest patients.

Depending on the day, “Mrs. Tina,as she’s known around the hospital, might be found rocking a baby in the NICU whose caregivers are not able to visit every day or playing a game with a young patient in one of the Child Life Activity Rooms, which give children at the hospital a distraction from the stress related to their stays.

Begley helps Children's of Mississippi patient Joby Duck Jr. of Edwards glue tissue paper to his art project.
Begley helps Joby Duck Jr. of Edwards, Children's of Mississippi patient, glue tissue paper to his art project.

“We play games, we play lots of Uno, and sometimes I will just talk to them … We play video games and board games, just anything anything to make them happy is what we try to do,said Begley, who usually works with hematology and oncology patients at Children’s of Mississippi.

According to Julie Pickett, volunteer coordinator for Children’s of Mississippi, volunteers like Begley provide much needed help to care teams by working both directly with patients and in a variety of other roles.

“These volunteers bridge that gap between our clinical care and things that the specialists can do. If a child life specialist needs to go to a procedure and there’s no volunteer, they close the room so no kids can play that day. It’s the same in the NICU, if they (nurses) had every hour in the day, they would hold them, but they often have more than one baby to care for,explained Pickett.

These hardworking helping hands can be found in the adult hospitals, too. Meseret Lendi of Flowood, the 2019 UMMC Volunteer of the Year, applied as a volunteer when her husband, a UMMC employee, suggested it shortly after their family moved to Mississippi from Ethiopia in 2017.

Although Lendi spoke very little English when she began as a volunteer, several customer service employees were ready to help her overcome the language barrier by creating a map of the hospital so she could help escort patients to their appointments.

Lendi helps visitors at the main information desk during her volunteer shifts three days each week.

Now, she can be found walking with patients throughout the hospital and clinics or assisting at the customer service desk and the main information desk three days each week. 

One of her favorite parts of being a volunteer is meeting people of all different backgrounds and making life a little easier for the patients and families she encounters --even if she can only offer a smile and help finding their way through the series of hallways.

“Meseret is always willing to help! Her confidence has improved so much since she began serving with our department. She is always prompt and on time and has a wonderful attitude,” said Customer Service Representative Nicole Gilmore.

Before moving to Mississippi, Lendi was already a helper, donating clothing and other items to children in need in Ethiopia. She said it is important for her to imagine herself in someone else’s shoes and find ways to help them.

“Today I’m healthy and strong but after 50 or 60 years, I may be in their shoes. Whatever good I’m doing today is something I will harvest later,” Lendi explained. “I wish everybody, whatever their level is – academically or economically – would help each other. Our world would be much richer. A small contribution can make a really large difference.”

It is because of their dedication and passion for helping others that these women have been recognized as this year’s top volunteers, highlighting the important role volunteers play in the lives of patients and families at the Medical Center.