Toni McKinney, right, recognizes Sarah Barton of Houston for volunteering more than 90 hours as a TCMH youth ambassador during a special presentation. (File photo)

Texas County Memorial Hospital has opened the application process for area youth to join its youth ambassador program. Eligible participants are high school juniors and seniors and college students that volunteer their time at TCMH.

Youth Ambassadors have volunteered more than 1,000 hours at the hospital in the program’s first year.

“We had a very successful first year for a new volunteer program at the hospital, but there’s so much more we would like to do, too,” said Toni McKinney, registration director at TCMH and the liaison with the TCMH Auxiliary.

McKinney created the ambassador program as an extension of the hospital’s traditional auxiliary program.

Members are chosen from a formal application process. They are required to go through an orientation and must commit to volunteering at TCMH for four hours each month. The program includes three levels of volunteer achievement – healthcare survivor; TCMH idol and amazing ambassador – and the levels can be achieved based on volunteer hours and work ethic.

Since its inception, several youth ambassadors have reached specific levels of achievement in the volunteer program.

Sarah Barton recently received the status of TCMH idol by volunteering more than 90 hours as an ambassador. Barton received a TCMH hoodie, pin, $10 voucher to the Mayuga Café and letter of recommendation from Wes Murray, TCMH chief executive officer.

Volunteering more than 30 hours as ambassadors were: Shelby Brown; Kadie Dugger; Jessica Herndon; Nicole Hooper; Ellie Horbyk; Samantha Jones; Kristi Newsome; Shasta Robbins; Breanna Steelman; Victoria Thompson; Rachel Thurman; Melanie Welch and Tiffany Wofford. Those individuals achieved healthcare survivor status and received a youth ambassador shirt, pin, and $5 voucher to the Mayuga Café.

Volunteer duties include passing out fresh linens and filling ice water cups for patients on the medical surgical floors, rocking newborns, greeting visitors in the obstetrics department and reading to and talking with patients in the hospital’s swing bed program.

Melanie Welch, a student at Missouri State University, has volunteered in the hospital’s emergency room.

“When I started college, I thought physical therapy was the only option for me,” Welch said. “However, after working in the ER, I feel like nursing could be another choice for me.”

Jennifer Belew, a Houston high school junior, said she learned how to properly make a hospital bed and how to distribute ice to the patients and write down the amount they drink. She volunteered in the medical surgical department.

“The time I’ve spent at TCMH is something I will never forget,” said Shelby Brown, a Mountain Grove high school senior.

McKinney explained that the program has achieved its goal of providing area students with hands on experience and a much greater knowledge and appreciation for what goes on behind the doors of their community hospital.

“There’s a lot more going on in hospitals than just people working as doctors and nurses,” McKinney said.

Rachel Thurman, a Licking high school senior, did some volunteer work in the hospital’s infection control department. She filed papers.

“I have learned to speak up when I don’t understand something, and I’ve learned quick ways to file papers,” Thurman said.

“Some of our current youth ambassadors will be able to continue to volunteer at the hospital in the upcoming year,” McKinney said. “We hope to add to our ranks by opening up the program to new applicants and open up the world of the hospital to more students in our area.”

Additional information about the TCMH youth ambassadors and the application for the program is available from McKinney or area guidance counselors. The application deadline is Friday, Sept. 3.

McKinney may be reached by calling 417-967-1346 or 866-967-3311, ext. 346, or via e-mail at



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