St Vincent’s volunteer makes a heartfelt difference

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Above: Jenny Werner with her granddaughter, Emma (left)

Jenny Werner has been a volunteer at St Vincent’s for 30 years but her connection with the hospital goes back even further.

Jenny, 79, trained as a nurse at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) during the 1960s and lived on-site at the former Aikenhead Wing nurses’ home while she studied.

“I have a deep connection to this hospital; it holds a very special place in my heart,” she said.

Her volunteer work began in 1998 where she would help out with hospital administration tasks. She is now a sewing volunteer and handmakes plush fabric hearts that are used in the Healing Hearts Program.

These hearts are delivered across the hospital’s campuses by the Pastoral Care team to patients and residents who may be struggling with their illness or healing and feeling anxious, low, sad or vulnerable. They also provide a great way of communicating compassionate care without words.

“I find the work so meaningful. It brings me great comfort and joy knowing people love them and that they are helping to lift spirits,” said Jenny, who makes the hearts with her 15-year-old granddaughter, Emma.

The pair has been involved with the Healing Hearts program for the past six years.

“Emma was only nine when she started and we really love doing this project together. It has given us with some lovely time to bond."

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Above: SVHM Pastoral Care Practitioner Nikki Morrison with patient Sofia

Straight from the heart

Jenny and Emma achieved a special milestone earlier this year when they produced their 1000th fabric heart.

“We were just so excited. Volunteering provides you with so much more than you give. It gives you such a sense of belonging and such a warm feeling knowing you are doing something for the community,” said Jenny.

Healing Hearts is one of a range of volunteer programs and services offered at St Vincent’s. Other programs include pet therapy, music therapy, art therapy, gardening, comfort cooking, among others.

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Volunteer Services Manager, Judy Clover, said the positive feedback from people who have received the fabric hearts has been heart-warming.

“Sometimes the simplest programs create the greatest impact. To measure this program, you only have to look at the faces of our patients when they receive a Healing Heart,” said Judy.

One patient in the early stages of dementia shared her fears with a Pastoral Care worker about the moments of confusion she was experiencing and her distress at how she felt her world was crumbling around her. After receiving a Healing Heart, she found she was able to hold it tightly in her hand to calm herself during anxious moments to bring some relief.

Jenny described St Vincent’s as a wonderful place to volunteer, where people really care about what they do.

“I feel so blessed in my life and love that I am able to give back in this way and will continue making these hearts for as long as my fingers are able,” said Jenny.

To enquire about becoming a volunteer at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, please contact Volunteer Services on

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Above: SVHM Pastoral Care Practitioner Shaun Dowling with patient Ahmet