Richard Rowlands

For Alfred concierge volunteers Patricia and Richard Rowlands, it's thanks enough helping visitors find their way around the maze of hospital corridors. So when they heard they had been nominated for the 5th Annual Pride of Australia medal, the Vermont couple were gob smacked.

"I couldn't believe it when they called" Patricia said. "Knowing that people get to where they want to go is enough thanks, we don't expect anything else."

Married for 48 years, Patricia and Richard are two of The Alfred's longest serving volunteers, racking up a solid ten years of dedicated service. Funnily enough, Patricia insists she was tricked into volunteering with her cheeky husband who came home one day and told her he had decided to help set up The Alfred's concierge program.

"He came home and said they were after a couple to volunteer together, so the only way he could do it, was if I joined as well! I believed him and we've never looked back - and we'll stay as long as The Alfred will have us!" Pat said. While Patricia has been helping out in admissions for the past three years, Richard, who underwent a heart transplant at The Alfred in 1992, sits attentively at the hospital's main reception from 5.30am in the morning, ready to assist anyone looking perplexed at the network of corridors and signage.

"One day I was out shopping in Vermont when I heard someone yell out 'Hey, why aren't you at The Alfred!'. It was a complete stranger who had remembered me helping him out years and years ago. I struggled to remember his face, but you really know you have helped someone when they remember it years later," Richard said.

According to Volunteer Manager, Gillian Wilson, other hospitals have made visits in the hope they can pick up tips on how to make their concierge program as successful. "Our tick is that it's a no frills program. We don't have a desk or signage. Richard just wanted a chair he can sit at near main reception, which makes him really approachable and ready to jump up and help anyone with questions," Gillian explained.

It is the approachability that led day procedure unit ward clerk Lyn Binks to nominate them for this year's Pride of Australia medal. "They are just so lovely and anyone who can get up at 3am in the morning to come and volunteer here is just amazing. I've grown to know them and I come in at 5.30am every Monday just for a coffee with Pat - they are a very warm and helpful couple," Lyn said.

Reproduced for 'Alfred Matters' May 2009 - Issue 96