The Heart of BIDMC
Volunteering Feeds Her Soul and Wins Her Awards
The night before the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) AstraZeneca Hope Lodge opened in Jamaica Plain in November 2008, longtime ACS volunteer Stephanie Harriston-Diggs was ironing curtains and putting towels into the guest rooms, getting ready for families to arrive.
“We had spent a lot of time talking and figuring out what we could do to help the families who need to travel to Boston for cancer treatment,” says Harriston-Diggs, who by day is the Director of Volunteer Services at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
“I volunteered after hours alongside doctors and ACS staff, meeting with donors to raise the funds," she adds. "And then finally it happened. The Lodge is booked a lot and it’s wonderful to know that people have a free place to stay while they’re going through such a difficult time.”
On a recent Saturday morning, sitting in her living room with a cup of tea in hand and going through the week’s mail, Harriston-Diggs opened a letter and was delighted to learn that her more than 20 years of service were being rewarded. She is one of 19 passionate volunteers being recognized by the American Cancer Society with the 2014 St. George National Award.
The St. George award is given to individuals across the country in honor of their outstanding service, continuous leadership and commitment to the community in support of the ACS mission to eliminate cancer.
“The volunteers honored with this award have dedicated their time and resources to the fight against cancer,” says Pamela Meyerhoffer, FAHP, volunteer chair of the American Cancer Society Board of Directors. “Their commitment to and passion for our mission is remarkable.”
Harriston-Diggs says volunteering feeds her soul.
“That’s just how I was raised,” she says. “I don’t remember a time in my life when my family didn’t volunteer.”
She currently chairs the Board of Directors for Hospitality Homes, a local organization that connects families travelling to Boston for medical care with short-term housing in volunteer host homes. On Tuesday evenings, Harriston-Diggs volunteers at BIDMC’s Tanger BeWell fitness center. Every other weekend, you can find her at the front desk of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, and she recently started helping with hospice visits as part of a volunteer program at her husband’s workplace. However, it’s her work with the American Cancer Society that is most personal to her.
“I lost both my grandmother and my dad to lung cancer. My dad was only 57 when he died,” she says. “Being involved with the American Cancer Society helped me as he went through his illness, especially at such a young age.”
In addition to her support for the Hope Lodge, Harriston-Diggs participates every year in the ACS’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk; she’s also done numerous Relay for Life events and has been the person at the other end of the phone on the ACS’s information hotline.
“I’ve learned so much along the way, and for me it’s been a way for me to help people through things, just like I was helped,” she says.
“Stephanie’s leadership has been instrumental in building and augmenting relationships between the American Cancer Society and the Boston area,” says Peg Camp, Executive Vice President and Operating Officer of the Society’s New England Division. “Her contributions are selfless and will leave an indelible impact on the Society’s efforts to execute its lifesaving work in Boston.”
Harriston-Diggs is excited to receive this prestigious award.
“When I look at the caliber of excellence in the other 18 recipients who keep the American Cancer Society’s programs thriving,” she notes, “I am honored and humbled to be recognized alongside them.”
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