Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Michele Prince, Volunteer Services
Apr 20, 2022 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Meet Michele Prince, director of Volunteer Services at Cedars-Sinai!
Michele has been passionate about volunteerism since childhood. We chatted about her inspirations and the dedicated corps of volunteers she and her team oversee.
"Our volunteers are involved in nearly every corner of the medical center, so almost every day I'm on campus, I walk somewhere new and it's like a small expedition."
What was your first volunteer experience and how has volunteering played a role in your life?
Michele Prince: I've always loved volunteering, from collecting funds while trick or treating as a child, to stuffing envelopes for a local candidate when I was a teen. I even met my husband when we were both volunteering.
Right out of college, I worked for a large Detroit ad agency in the automotive industry. Through our employee volunteerism efforts, I planned a Halloween party for children living in a residential care facility.
We planned a great party: games, art stations, decorations, food and candy galore. At the very last minute we were able to bring two players from the Pistons basketball team. The kids were over the moon! They were so excited when these extremely tall, larger-than-life players came over to hang out.
One of the players grew up in the foster system, and it was such a deep moment for him to be together with the kids and for them to hear his story. Boy, I have not thought about this in many years, and I am tearing up just remembering the evening. The cherry on top was that some of my colleagues ended up volunteering weekly for that care facility.
What person, living or dead, epitomizes the spirit of volunteerism for you and why?
MP: My father, hands down.
My late father, David Burdowski, was a Holocaust concentration camp survivor. He survived Auschwitz and Dachau, and six other labor and death camps.
He was a barber by trade. Not a hair stylist, an old-school barber. In addition to his barbershop in town, he set up a chair down in our basement and gave haircuts to the neighbors and others.
Even after he retired from his shop, he had his black bag handy with his scissors, combs, straight-edge razor and other tools, and he visited community members who were ill or hospitalized to give them a haircut and a shave. He helped them brighten up and feel like a million bucks.
How does your current profession bring you joy?
MP: I'm really happy to be part of the Cedars-Sinai community. I've been here less than a year and half, and finding my way around is still an adventure. Our volunteers are involved in nearly every corner of the medical center, so almost every day I'm on campus, I walk somewhere new and it's like a small expedition.
It means so much to me that our volunteers tell us that they get more than they give—and they give a lot. They really do make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families every single day. The joy our volunteers experience translates into joy for me.
What makes the Cedars-Sinai volunteer force so special? To what do you attribute our program's success?
MP: In a meeting this week, I asked one of our volunteers what she loves about volunteering at Cedars-Sinai, and she said, "It's in my blood!" The volunteers are all here by choice. They do not have to be here. That sense of altruism and compassion runs deep.
Another volunteer described how she takes the bus 90 minutes each way to get here, so when she is here, she wants to make the very most of each experience. She, like many of our young adult volunteers, is pursuing a career in healthcare and gets to try it on for size while she volunteers on campus.
The ingredients of our success include our staff, plus the volunteers, plus an institution that prioritizes the role of the volunteer. All our staff members are smart, creative and talented at managing large groups of people, organizing many projects simultaneously and cultivating relationships throughout Cedars-Sinai.
In one of this year's Volunteer Appreciation Week videos, our CEO, Tom Priselac, reinforced that when many of our volunteers were not able to be on-site during the peaks of the pandemic, their absence was deeply felt. He acknowledges that our volunteers are part of the very fabric of Cedars-Sinai.
When people say they would like to volunteer but don't have time, how do you respond?
MP: I never hear that! Now we even have micro-volunteering opportunities for Cedars-Sinai's busy employees to simply show up and provide community service once a month in a variety of locations throughout L.A.