For SCCA volunteers, patients are tops

Long-Term Follow-Up

For SCCA volunteers, patients are tops

Barbara Miller

Volunteers help brighten patients' lives during stay

Summer 2008

Barbara Miller understands all too well the challenges patients face when they come to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for treatment.

She was a cancer patient once, and her experience left her with a deep desire to help others.

Today, Miller is one of dozens of people who donate their time to SCCA's Volunteer Services program, which helps patients — and their families — during their cancer treatment in Seattle. Miller encourages anyone, especially former patients, to get involved.

Like Miller, many volunteers have fought cancer themselves or someone in their family has. That gives them intimate knowledge of the disease, and often serves as a main reason for wanting to share their time and experiences with new SCCA patients.

"It's really an honor to be allowed into someone's life at this critical junction," said Miller, president of SCCA's Volunteer Advisory Council. "Volunteering at SCCA is a truly wonderful opportunity for anyone in the community."

SCCA patients and their families come from throughout the United States and the world to get treatment. Many of them have limited financial resources and are far from home, sometimes alone. That's where the volunteers come in, helping in many different ways and often becoming close friends with patients.

"We try to help out whenever there's a need for a volunteer," said Miller, who has been volunteering for about six years. "We have volunteer drivers, volunteers who take patients shopping."

Volunteers pick up patients at the airport, teach them how to navigate their new temporary Seattle home, or help them find housing and grocery stores.

"Patients are so overwhelmed. And Seattle is a big city. The traffic is scary and they need help figuring things out," Miller said. "They need a friend in the city, a friend who can listen."

Currently, more than 150 volunteers donate about 1,500 hours each month helping patients and their families, said Erica Karlovits, Volunteer Services manager.

"Without our volunteers, we could not provide so many wonderful services," Karlovits said.

Volunteers also quickly discover that their experience helping SCCA patients offers valuable life lessons, such as hope, humility and grace.

The volunteer program has garnered attention, earning an Excellence Award from the Washington State Society of Directors of Volunteer Services two years ago. Today, the program is even stronger, Karlovits said.

"Our volunteers are committed to providing the highest quality of care. Here, every volunteer provides support directly to patients and families," she said.

If you want to volunteer, call (206) 288-1072, visit, or e-mail,