Valerie Poole and Corey Simon

Volunteer Florida recognized Valerie Poole of Lakeland by awarding her the “Champion of Service Award” for her “outstanding efforts in volunteerism and community service” with Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine.

Poole, 65, a lifelong Lakeland resident and fifth-generation Floridian, is a retired registered nurse who had been volunteering with LVIM for the past year. She typically helps the non-profit with scheduling appointments and intake screening.

She earned the “Champion of Service Award” for her willingness to step in and fill the urgent need to serve as a phlebotomist when an employee left, according to the non-profit’s CEO.

“Following a staffing shortage in LVIM’s onsite laboratory, LVIM was faced with the possibility of needing to refer many clients to an outside facility. This would have been a heavy burden on LVIM clients who have limited financial resources and often face transportation challenges,” explained Alice Koehler, president and CEO of Lakeland Volunteers In Medicine.

“In the face of this challenge, Valerie … immediately stepped up to the plate to help. She is passionate about doing whatever she can to remove stressors from the lives of hardworking patients, while also improving access to health services. When asked about volunteering as a phlebotomist, she said she was nervous but that she ‘really believed in our mission’ and wanted to help out wherever she could.”

Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine provides free outpatient medical, dental, and mental health care to working Polk County residents who are uninsured. Poole is one of 300 volunteers who assists the organization. She said she was pleased to receive the award.

“It’s delightful to receive this recognition from Volunteer Florida, but at the same time, there are many volunteers, who are my age and older, who have dedicated  years of service to LVIM, as well as our young college students, who have full strenuous schedules, and still find time to volunteer,” said Valerie Poole.

“I hope that receiving this award will bring attention to LVIM and the important services that are provided.”

The award was presented by Corey Simon, CEO of Volunteer Florida, which, according to its website is “officially recognized as the Florida Commission on Community Service (and) receives over $23 million in federal and state funding to support our efforts to expand national service, promote disaster resiliency and advocate for volunteerism in Florida. The agency is guided by a bipartisan board of commissioners, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate.”

Valerie Poole received the award from Corey Simon, CEO of Volunteer Florida.

Poole worked as an RN at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center for 27 years, serving in many areas including the intensive care unit. She also worked at Good Shepherd Hospice for five years.

“As an RN, I have come face to face with the disparity in the medical services field. Working in the hospital setting, it was frustrating to care for someone who required hospitalization for a chronic condition [which] could have been managed by primary care or an acute condition that intensified because medical care was not provided early, as a result of the cost for care or insurance was insurmountable,” Poole explained.

“I feel that by volunteering at LVIM, I am a small part in one solution to the complex medical system,“ she said, adding that she encourages others to consider volunteering at LVIM.

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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