Dick Neuwirth, a volunteer chaplain at Mercy Health – Defiance Hospital, is one of our many volunteers who support our Mission to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus. And like many others, Dick doesn’t want recognition for his efforts.
“I have found that my job at Mercy Health is both very rewarding and very heartbreaking,” he shares. “But if I can go home when my shift is over and think that I have helped one person, the whole day is a success.”
A long-time volunteer chaplain, Dick brings his experience as both teacher (now retired) and church pastor (ongoing) to his role in the progressive care unit. There he sees the value of chaplains being present for patients.
“The ministry’s ‘good help’ motto tells the whole story about the attitude at Defiance Hospital,” Dick says. “And it goes hand in hand with my personal mission. In fact, the reason I volunteered to work at Mercy Health is because of the way I have been treated there as a patient. I have been in three Mercy Health hospitals and they are all very caring.”
He continues, “Defiance Hospital is the very best hospital I have ever been in. I felt that I wanted to do something to keep me moving, and Jill Simon, a chaplain at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center, suggested volunteer chaplain and trained me for the job.”
The 81-year-old goes on to explain that his main job is to listen to patients.
“I have been a patient in a hospital many times, and it is comforting when a chaplain comes in and wants to know how you are feeling and your story. I do not work at Mercy Health for recognition. I work there for the patients.”
“Dick has a long history of compassionate care,” Deacon Jeff Mayer, our hospital chaplain, emphasizes. “As a teacher, his students who are now adults remember him with respect and fondness. As a minister, he leads his congregation with dedication and well-grounded faith. And as a volunteer chaplain, he is empathetic and a careful listener. He is always ready and willing to help.”
Dick has a soft spot for Vietnam War veterans who returned to the U.S. without appreciation of their service or support for their needs. Dick didn’t serve; his bad back prevented it.
However, he cherishes one military tradition: dispensing “challenge coins.” Historically, leaders distributed such tokens for outstanding service or performance of duty. Over time, other organizations embraced the idea as well.
“About 10 years ago, a member of the church I was pastoring gave me a challenge coin,” Dick shares. “I have several military challenge coins, but the one he gave me is a Christian coin that has Ephesians 6:11-18 and mentions ‘put on the whole armor of God.’ I give the coins out to people I think they can help, as a symbol of faith.”
In fact, not long ago, Dick was talking with a patient that was also a Vietnam veteran.
“This patient is very bitter. I told him he had every right to feel the way he does and encouraged him to have faith and pray. I then gave him a coin.”
Hospital staff note that the patient, touched by Dick’s gesture, now keeps the coin in his pocket.
“Dick is a wonderful volunteer and asset for our spiritual care department at Defiance Hospital,” Julie Landoll, director of mission integration and spiritual care for our Defiance, Tiffin and Willard hospitals, shares. “His service and compassionate care to others shines brightly for all to see. We are truly blessed to have Dick in our ministry!”
Dick describes his passion as helping people who are down and helping people who are dealing with illness. He shares his time and talents with other organizations as well.
“My wife says I’m a workaholic and that is probably true,” he admits. “My work drives me.”