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After more than a year off, Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center's Auxiliary will be back to work on May 3.

Mount Graham Regional Medical Center’s volunteers headed back into the hospital Monday for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year to help make patients’ experiences at the hospital as easy and comfortable as possible.

The last time the MGRMC Auxiliary was allowed to volunteer was in February of last year. Since then, the group has been eagerly awaiting to return to the hospital, said MGRMC Auxiliary President Lori Monteith.

As vaccinations in Graham County and across the state of Arizona inch upwards, and cases of COVID-19 inch downwards, the Auxiliary team was invited back to serve in the hospital, she said.

“Everyone’s excited. The hospital, the patients. Everybody is excited to see community members again,” Monteith said, “Our priority is helping people, and obviously the hospital is the same. As long as our COVID numbers keep declining, we should be back to business as usual.”

Her organization has been serving the hospital and its patients since 1973, she said.

Starting Monday, 28 volunteers began working two hour shifts each at the hospital’s gift shop, Monteith said. They are also working as greeters at the entrance, helping patients navigate their way around the hospital, and making sure they are as comfortable as can be.

Prior to COVID-19, the volunteers used to work five hour shifts, but they want to ease back into work, said Shaylee Richards, director of marketing and community relations. She hopes that before too long they’ll be back to their normal hours.

“Very few people go into a hospital because they want to, so you do the best you can to make them feel comfortable. We make sure we have a smiling face. We do our best,” Monteith said.

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