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Newton Medical volunteer head Martha Taylor retiring

The hallway outside Martha Taylor’s office is adorned with framed covers of Christmas cards sent by Volunteer Services in years past, along with programs from fashion shows and talent show fundraisers. (Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum)

The hallway outside Martha Taylor’s office is adorned with framed covers of Christmas cards sent by Volunteer Services in years past, along with programs from fashion shows and talent show fundraisers. (Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum)

COVINGTON — Martha Taylor has seen plenty of changes at Newton Medical Center since she was first hired 31 years ago. Under her leadership as director of volunteer services, the number of volunteers has increased from 25 to 225, serving 28 departments in the hospital, and Volunteer Services has raised more than $2.7 million through fundraisers and donations. Most recently, the traditional Pink Lady uniforms got switched to royal blue, as more men have started volunteering. Last year, the first male joined the Newton Medical Auxiliary Board.

Taylor can’t recall many days that she hasn’t been excited to get up and go to work.

“I can’t think of a better way to have spent the better part of my life,” she said. “It’s been good. It really has.”

But now, Taylor said it’s time to move on. She’s retiring at the end of the year after 31 years of service. Her leadership will be missed, according to the volunteers she leads.

“Martha Taylor is an amazing, talented person. She is a born leader who approaches every project with enthusiasm, skill and thorough planning,” said long-time volunteer Lee Aldridge. “She is highly regarded by the staff and the volunteers. Because she acknowledges the work we do by expressing her appreciation to us, we have a positive, happy group of volunteers. She will be missed.”

Taylor was initially hired as the hospital’s first marketing director, back when Newton Medical Center was still Newton County Hospital. Taylor observed that the 25 or so volunteers needed some direction.

She approached Newton Medical CEO Jim Weadick about her concern, “and he said, ‘I think you’d be the right person.’”

So Taylor became the hospital’s first Volunteer Services director. She did both jobs for about two years, before devoting herself full-time to Volunteer Services.

Taylor organized popular fundraisers such community fashion and talent shows that gave positive exposure to Volunteer Services, resulting in an increase in membership. Now, there are 225 senior volunteers and 60 junior volunteers, high school students who work during the summers, as well as 30 to 40 college students there year-round. Volunteers assist in 28 hospital departments, venturing far beyond the gift shop clerk and patient transportation roles they play in many hospitals. Their duties range from helping patients prepare for procedures at the Women’s Diagnostic Center to providing a calming presence for children waking up from surgery in the recovery room to updating family members waiting on a loved one in surgery.

Jane Anderson was asked by Taylor to start the First Steps program for new mothers at the hospital. Anderson said Taylor has a knack for matching volunteers with the right job.

“She is really easy to work with, she knows what she’s doing, she’s organized, she’s a people person,” Anderson said.

She also has a knack for organizing successful fundraisers. Volunteer Services was formed in 1960. Members held bake sales to raise money to purchase drapes for the lobby.

“For a group their size, they did an amazing job to raise the kind of funds they did,” Taylor said.

Since 1985, three major fundraisers per year, coupled with donations, have raised more than $2.7 million to purchase hospital equipment and fund services.

Taylor said she’s had the backing of the hospital administration and board throughout her career, and gave a special thanks to her administrative assistant, Lisa Brooks; Gift Shop Manager Kathy Collins; First Steps Coordinator Cathy Williams; Cinderella Shop Manager Peggy Chancey; Auxiliary charter member Peggy Gainer, and Esther Williams, liaison from the Hospital Board of Directors to the Auxiliary.

“It’s been fun. Volunteers are great folks,” she said.