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Norwalker Beats Depression Through Volunteerism

NORWALK, Conn. -- Nine years ago, Ron Lampel was slipping into an emotional hole that he needed to climb out of. His doctor suggested he turn his attention toward Norwalk Hospital.

“My doctor sent me here because I was suffering from severe depression. She thought it would be a good idea for me to join the volunteer program so I had something to occupy my time,” Lampel says, taking a brief break from his duties at Norwalk Hospital’s monthly volunteer-driven book sale.  He adds matter-of-factly, “It turned me around.”

Lampel is now angling toward his third term as president of the Norwalk Hospital volunteer board. He jokes that more than a second term is unusual but that he likes the responsibility. In his time as a volunteer, he’s had a hand in turning the book sale into a monthly event, every last Wednesday. The volunteers now also work with area florists to provide small bouquets to patients a few days a week, at no cost. They also help with small tasks like taking discharged patients to their cars and giving tours for young children who are about to become siblings.

All proceeds from the book sale fund programs at the hospital. Book donations can be left at the front desk. People interested in joining Lampel’s ranks can call the volunteer office at (203) 852-2023.

Depression took hold of Lampel when he found himself as the vice president of human relations at a computer services company forced to lay off workers as the business went under. Lampel had had long relationships with the employees and their families and it got to him, pushing him into a breakdown. He would sit in his chair at home, silent and remorseful.

“If you’ve never suffered from depression, it’s just a terrible feeling to be like that,” Lampel says. Today, though, the sun shines in his world. He says working as a volunteer at the hospital has turned him around and is a far more effective therapy than any medication.

He’s most happy about the days he and his wife play baby-sitter to their 4-month-old granddaughter. They only have her two days a week, but Lampel notes with a smile that they are a “wonderful two days.”

Still, if he hadn’t found his purpose and focus with the volunteers, Lampel wouldn’t be able to watch his granddaughter. “I’d just be sitting in my chair, doing nothing,” he says.

Do you or does someone you love struggle with depression? What are some of the ways they fight back against the disease?

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