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Familiar Faces Help Brighten Loneliness of Hospital Stays : Santa Paula: Larry and Judy Dunst find they're welcomed as Raggedy Ann and Andy as they make weekly rounds visiting the young and old.

August 16, 1993|RODNEY BOSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"They made my whole day," Justice said, clutching the doll to her chest after the Dunsts left her room. "This is the first time I've smiled since being in here."

Next stop, the intensive care unit.

There they unexpectedly found Larry's longtime friend and retired insurance agent, Jerry Camp, a Santa Paula resident. Camp had rushed his wife, Erma, 64, to the hospital because of respiration problems. An oxygen tube was inserted into her trachea to aid in breathing.

Here they spent 10 minutes--the longest of all their visits that day--as Camp explained his wife's condition and expressed his concerns.

"He needs just as much help as his wife," Larry said. Judy added, "Sometimes the patients are out of it and it's the family that needs someone to talk to."

According to nursing director Lyders: "That's something the nurses can't afford to do anymore--we just don't have time to do that. It's one of the niceties of having them here."

Ventura County's Raggedy team could soon grow by six.

Lori and Alan Harris of Fillmore have expressed interest in volunteering their time to an area nursing home. Their 3-year-old twins and their two other youngsters are allowed to partake in Raggedy activities at a nursing home.

"Kids and nursing homes go well together," Lori said. "They love the kids.

"This is something everybody gets a thrill out of. A lot of those folks don't have anybody; they need lots of visitors," she said.

The only impediment the Harrises face: a $1,500 expense for attending the Love Yourself Foundation's seminar. Simon Fox, Karen's husband and co-founder of the foundation, said the money pays for training, recruiting, outfitting and supporting the volunteers. The foundation has three full-time employees-- Simon and Karen Fox and a secretary.

The Dunsts' involvement in the program was sponsored by the Fillmore Sunrisers Rotary Club, which footed the bill. Rotary club members say they would like to see the program expand in the area, and more sponsorships are likely in the near future.

"This is about getting back to grass roots," said Karen Fox, who made her first Raggedy Ann visit in 1984. "People helping people."

FYI

According to co-founder Simon Fox, the nonprofit Love Yourself Foundation will begin recruiting Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy volunteers in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties in the fall.

Anyone interested in volunteering or providing sponsorship may reach the foundation in Santa Barbara at 687-5803.

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