If you chance to visit VIM on Wednesdays or Thursdays, you will surely meet one of our receptionists – Marguerite Sherman. This friendly, calm, competent woman has held the position since January of 2009. “I love my job” she says, “I absolutely love it! I would be here more often if I lived closer.” Marguerite used to live right across the street in Great Barrington, but has since moved 23 miles away to Pittsfield. Driving that distance twice a week is indicative of the passion she has for her volunteer position, for her fellow volunteers and for the community members they serve.
Marguerite’s days at VIM begin before the clinical staff and patients arrive – she checks the clinical schedules to be sure all needed demographical data such as address, phone number, emergency contacts and insurance information has been gathered and updated, and that this information is readily at hand for the clinical staff – all this before the doors open to receive the first patient. She calls people if they are late for their appointments and notifies the nurse when patients arrive so that vitals can be assessed before seeing the provider.
During the course of her day Marguerite takes all in-coming phone calls and routes them to the appropriate people, the nursing staff, physicians, or administrators. There are frequent general enquiries from members of the public asking for information such as: what services does VIM offer? who is eleigible for those services? how does one go about making an appointment? The VIM receptionist is generally the first person to interface with the public; the gateway to the intake process and any subsequent care that may follow. A very important person!
Marguerite was a volunteer at RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program, an agency which places volunteers at county nonprofits) in Pittsfield, driving Great Barrington patients back and forth to their chemotherapy appointments, when she learned about VIM Berkshires. VIM was looking for volunteer drivers, as well as for other positions posted with RSVP. RSVP sent Marguerite to VIM. When she approached Susan Minnich, VIM’s Volunteer Coordinator, Susan took one look at Marguerite’s resume, recognized the wealth of her past experience, invited her to join the VIM team, and that was the beginning of her work with the agency.
Marguerite grew up in Pittsfield. She graduated from St. Joseph’s High School and then went on to Berkshire Business College. Her first position in the world of work was as a Clerk in the Claims Department with Berkshire Life Insurance – keeping files up to date, noting changes in client status etc.. She left this job to get married and move to Boston where she spent the next thirty years. Her last position in Boston was with a major manufacturing company that made commercial ware – such as dishwashing machines for large institutions, – hospitals, universities, the US navy etc. Some of these machines finished up in West Point, in Parliament House in London, and in Government offices in France. She began her career with them as a timekeeper, and by the time she retired from this company she had risen to become Assistant Comptroller. Over the years she filled many roles in this establishment: from secretary to the plant manager, to playing nurse when anyone was hurt, to cleaning rest rooms, and keeping track of workmen’s compensation.
In one of her previous careers Marguerite worked as a surveyor– learning on the job – and is proud to say she helped lay sewer pipes for the Salem Power Plant…pipes that were big enough to drive a VW beetle through. If she had been a man, she said, she would have gone into construction…she finds it totally fascinating: she loves to look at the skeletal structure of buildings as they are going up. It’s no wonder she says managing VIM’s busy phone-line and day-to-day traffic as a receptionist is “easy”. Here too, like many of her fellow workers, she finds that flexibility is a necessary virtue in an all-volunteer environment, but feels that variety in her daily activities is what keeps her job interesting.
A surprising fact about Marguerite is that she considers herself to be “extremely shy”. She has always been terrified to meet new people, and yet she meets and greets them every day in her work at VIM, and she’s 100% OK with that…”I think it’s because I am in a controlled, supportive setting,” she says. The most challenging part of her job is not being able to speak Spanish. “ I’m fine when it’s face-to-face in the office, but both I and the patients find it much harder to understand each other over the phone. Thank goodness VIM has wonderful bilingual volunteers to help us both out.”
What warms her heart most at VIM are the people. She is fascinated by “how much all the volunteers care about the patients – the doctors, the nurses, the hygienists, – they are all fantastic to their patients. The physicians seem so much more relaxed and caring in this environment where they have plenty of time to spend with their patients, and someone else is here to help them get the paperwork done”. For Marguerite the level of caring is best shown by the way people greet each other in the waiting area – the patients are so appreciative of the care they get, they can’t say enough good things about VIM…”and where else do you see a waiting room where staff and patients greet each other with smiles and hugs… It feels so good to think that something you do can actually make a difference in someone else’s life. I love it here! VIM is really special.”