Like many people, Mia Paolella was nervous at the start of the pandemic – especially since her mother works in health care.
Marilyn Paolella is the director of women and infant services at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, and just celebrated her 40-year anniversary as a hospital employee, Marilyn said.
But as Marilyn explained to her family (husband Mark and four daughters) all the safety protocols the hospital had in place, such as universal masking, “placing patients in isolation” and creating a culture of safety, Mia’s fear began to ease.
“Since I came home to reassure them, they began to feel reassured,” Marilyn said.
After Mia, a senior at Providence High School in New Lenox, saw her mother go to work each day and not get sick, Mia not only relaxed, she asked how she could help.
“And then I asked some of my friends to help, too,” Mia said.
Mia said she and three other friends are now volunteering at the front desk of Marilyn’s unit. For Mia, whose goal is to work in health care one day, this means about eight hours during the week.
Duties include making copies of paperwork and “help direct people where they need to go,” Mia said.
Since these teens started, Marilyn said it’s inspired other people to volunteer, too.
The hospital has seen a shortage of volunteers due to the pandemic since many of the volunteers are over age 65, Marilyn said.
Having Mia and her friends volunteer has helped tremendously.
“You never know how much your volunteers do for your unit until they are not there,” Marilyn said. “They’re performing functions we so desperately needed and we’re so grateful to have them. And they feel safe doing it.”
Mia agreed that she feels safe.
“I talked to my mom and she explained everything the hospital is doing to keep everyone safe,” Mia said. “Going in I felt comfortable and then I felt even more comfortable.”
But even before Mia began volunteering, Mia had started a group called Help Out Heroes. To help out the “heroes,” Mia partnered with Providence’s food drive to host a snack drive, too, Marilyn said.
They collected enough snacks to fill over 40 large baskets of snacks for hospital workers and first responders, Marilyn said.
Then they delivered those baskets to several area hospitals, including Silver Cross, along with area police stations and fire departments.
“When that was all over, Mia still felt she should be doing something,” Marilyn said. “She asked, ‘What else can i do?’ And I said, ‘None of our volunteers are able to come in.”