From left, Deb Sanford, MBA, MSN, RN, vice president of Nursing and Patient Care Services; Stacey Coventry, director, Volunteer and Community Development Services; Richard Larrabee, CNA III, NICU; Mikele Neal, BSN, RN, associate vice president, Women’s and Children’s Services; and Nicole Loranger, RN, nurse manager, Pediatrics. (Courtesy of Eastern Maine Medical Center)

BANGOR – In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Volunteer Services at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center has announced a new tradition to recognize volunteer leaders. This year, the medical center is proud to recognize its first Volunteer Leader of the Year, Richard Larrabee, CNA III, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Richard is the staff leader for Carter’s Quiet Care Cuddlers, a group of volunteers who provide care for the medical center’s youngest patients in the NICU. Richard’s dedication to the program has been unwavering since its inception 20 years ago. He collaborates with Volunteer Services to recruit, screen, select, and train new Cuddlers, and supports each volunteer through their journey. He works with colleagues to develop a strong support system and meets with the Cuddlers every six weeks to offer opportunities for debriefing, celebrating successes, processing grief and loss, and providing additional training and education.

“Richard has a passion, commitment, and dedication to the Cuddlers. He truly believes in the purpose of the program, the effect it has on the babies, and the assistance it gives to NICU staff and parents,” says Anne Corliss, credentialing specialist, Medical Staff Administration, who has been a NICU Cuddler for since the program opened 20 years ago.

Ellen Port, a Cuddler and 2022 Luminary nominee, echoes Anne’s sentiment and says, “I have witnessed Richard’s unrelenting commitment to excellence. He has nourished and nurtured, educated and disciplined, consoled us through sorrows, and energized us for new challenges.”

Mikele Neal, BSN, RN, associate vice president, Women’s and Children’s Services, has supervised and supported Richard over the years and says, “Richard is one of a kind. He is dedicated, compassionate, and so genuine. There is no one more committed than Richard is to the Cuddlers. He works tirelessly to ensure they are a skilled, capable group, and he is a very caring leader for them, ensuring all the Cuddlers have what they need and feel supported.”

Richard has recently developed an annual Skills Day for NICU volunteers to build upon their competencies and provide an opportunity for staff nurses to develop their leadership skills through teaching. Additionally, he is collaborating with Volunteer Services to develop a NICU skills day for their Student Career Exploration Day and creating a new student volunteer opportunity in their summer program.

The medical center congratulates Richard on this well-deserved recognition and is grateful for all he does.

National Volunteer Appreciation Week is celebrated annually during the third week of April to recognize and celebrate the contributions of volunteers and encourage more people to volunteer in their communities.