‘Making it nice for people’: Yarmouth Regional Hospital volunteers urge folks to butt out properly and safely

Kelsey Taggert tackles the butts outside of Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
Kelsey Taggert tackles the butts outside of Yarmouth Regional Hospital.

A cigarette butt thoughtlessly flicked on the ground may seem like a tiny bit of litter, but the butts add up. Just ask Kelsey Taggert, a new volunteer at Yarmouth Regional Hospital, who collects garbage while offering a friendly hello to visitors.

“I’ve been picking up cigarette butts and garbage around the hospital, and greeting people, and making it nice for people,” Taggert said.

On her first day, Taggert picked up 5.5 pounds of cigarette butts, with a few coffee cups thrown in. She volunteers several days per week, and in just a few days collected nearly 15 pounds of butts.

Taggert lives at Harbourside Lodge, an adult residential centre. She is participating in a new volunteer partnership between Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), Harbourside Lodge and a Department of Community Services program that aims to help residents connect with real work experiences in the community.

When the administrator of Harbourside Lodge, Kelley White, was looking for volunteer opportunities for residents, she started in her own backyard, which includes Yarmouth Regional Hospital.

White worked closely with Tanya Maillet, a volunteer resources consultant for the health authority, to identify areas where lodge residents could volunteer, and to develop position descriptions.

Staff of the Yarmouth hospital, especially the environmental services team, have always taken pride in the cleanliness of their hospital. But the accumulation of discarded cigarette butts outside hospital entrances has been a long-time challenge, so adding a volunteer to help out in this area was a natural fit.

Taggert quickly noticed that people do not always follow NSHA’s policy on smoke reduction.

“People smoke where they’re not supposed to. I’ve had other people complain to me about the smokers,” said Taggert, whose friendly attitude seems to affect the behaviour of some people out for a puff. “I’ve had a few smokers who have seen me picking up cigarette butts who moved on to other places (off hospital property).”

When not working to get her Grade 12 diploma, Taggert enjoys painting and toiling in the garden. She hopes to expand her volunteer activities in the spring to the flower beds around the hospital. She plans to continue to pick up butts to protect her precious plants.

“The chemicals in the cigarette butts poisons them,” she said.

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Joe Robichaud is another Harbourside Lodge resident who will volunteer with supply chain management at Yarmouth Regional Hospital as part of the same partnership initiative.

Robichaud will help process the hundreds of cardboard boxes in the warehouse that must be broken down, folded, stacked and prepared for recycling. As a volunteer, Robichaud is part of the hospital team and proudly wears his steel-toe safety shoes, volunteer vest and ID badge, as he marks down the days on his calendar before his first shift.

“There’s a lot of boxes,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”