Tough as Nails: Gift Shop Dynamo Gives Back for Gifts of Life
Apr 21, 2022
Angeline Sheets

For National Volunteer Week (April 17-23), Vitals will introduce readers to a few of the thousands of Northern Californians who give their valuable time to help patients, visitors and staff at medical facilities. In this final installment, we meet Alyce Glazer, who brings her talents and joyful spirit to a hospital gift shop in Roseville.

She’s just 4 feet, 10 inches tall, but you can’t miss Alyce Glazer and her larger-than-life personality, teal hair and monogrammed nails that sport the color and logo of a hospital she holds close to her heart.

“Hi Doll, what can I help you find today?” she asks in her distinct New York accent.

For nearly five years, Glazer has been proudly volunteering at the gift shop at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. Like clockwork, she’s there at least one day a week.

“It’s my main event! I look forward to that day so much,” she says with a smile.

But Glazer’s not just there for the pretty flowers and See’s candy. She’s been a patient.

“They saved my life at least four times,” she says, “so I’m giving back.”

Gift Shop Brightens Her Days in Rehab

Glazer’s patient journey started at Sutter Health 20 years ago when she had spinal fusion surgery. She wore a body brace and was in rehabilitation for months.

Volunteer Helps Gift Shop Customer

“Every time I went to cardio rehab, I would stop by the gift shop and buy myself a little something like flowers or candy. I just loved the gift shop. The day I graduated from cardio rehab I applied to be a volunteer,” says Alyce Glazer, right.

Years later she was back on her feet, managing her pet store in Rocklin when she had a massive heart attack and underwent a triple bypass. Glazer was back in rehabilitation at Sutter Roseville, this time in the cardiology unit.

It was a long road to recovery, but one thing lifted her spirits.

“Every time I went to cardio rehab, I would stop by the gift shop and buy myself a little something like flowers or candy. I just loved the gift shop,” she recounts, knowing she wanted to give back. “The day I graduated from cardio rehab I applied to be a volunteer.”

It was a perfect match. Glazer was no stranger to retail sales. She grew up selling monogrammed handkerchiefs in her father’s army and navy store in Harlem, New York. As she grew up, she went on to work at Neiman Marcus and the Gap.

“My passion is selling and helping people find exactly what they want,” she says. And that she does: She’s proudly one of the top salespeople at the Sutter Roseville Medical Center Gift Shop.

“If you do not want to buy anything, do not go to the gift shop when Alyce is there,” says Sutter Roseville Chaplain Lynne Gilbertson, “because her infectious personality will sell you something.”

Animals — Both Stuffed and Real — Help in Recovery

Gilbertson met Glazer when both were patients at Sutter Rehabilitation Institute, the acute rehab center at the Sutter Roseville campus. Gilbertson says it was a time when both of them wondered if they would “ever live a ‘normal’ life again.”

“One of Alyce’s most precious services to the gift shop has been purchasing the stuffed animals to make both children and adult patients happy with something soft to hold and cuddle when they — like Alyce once was — are lost in the question, ‘Will life ever be normal again?’,” Gilbertson said.

Tortoise

Meet Humphrey, Alyce Glazer’s tortoise whom she named after her thoracic surgeon, Dr. Sterling Humphrey.

When she’s not displaying stuffed animals at the gift shop, Glazer is managing her real-life animals at her home in Placer County. She has a pug, a parakeet and a pond full of wildlife, including a Tortoise named after her surgeon, Dr. Sterling Humphrey.

“I just love my Sutter doctors so much!” she exclaims.

Just a few years ago, Dr. Humphrey diagnosed Glazer with non-small cell lung cancer. She underwent surgery to have part of her lung removed. A PET scan revealed the cancer traveled to her lymph nodes. Glazer was in another fight for her life. She started treatment at Sutter Roseville for a year and a half. This March, she heard news that brought tears of joy.

“My doctor said, ‘Alyce, there’s no sign of cancer in your PET scan’,“ she recalled. “I just started crying.”

Her Nails Are the Envy of Staff

Her team of volunteers and the nurses that stop by the gift shop have been a pillar of support for Glazer.

“They give me hugs,” she says. “A lot of them have been through this cancer journey with me. I’m just so grateful for them.”

And she’s also grateful to the Sutter doctors, nurses and other care teams that have saved her life more than once.

Painted fingernails

Alyce Glazer’s fingernails feature her hospital’s color scheme and logo.

“I am a fighter!” Glazer proclaims. And that is evident to the nurses and other staff who stop by the gift shop.

Certainly, no one can file down her grit and perseverance … or her famous “Team Sutter” nails.

“I change up the design all the time,” Glazer says as she shows her freshly manicured set.

Nurses drop in the gift shop each week to see which new logo she’s sporting.

“The staff are always taking pictures of my nails,” she says, “to see if they can get the same.”

Certainly, they may be able to duplicate her nails, but it would be difficult to match her spunk, salesmanship and love for the hospital and its care teams.

Why Volunteer? Go Ask Alyce

When asked what she’d tell someone interested in volunteering, Glazer offers this: “We make a difference in people’s lives at a time when they really need it.”

Stuffed animal donations and gift shop volunteer

Alyce Glazer shows off a bin of donated stuffed animals for children in the emergency department.

Glazer says she has a new respect for teamwork and helping people in every phase of life. She believes the hospitals bring people together.

“Whether it’s a birth or death or in between, at the hospital everyone gathers and it’s that being together that is so important,” she says.

The gift shop, which is part of the Sutter Roseville Auxiliary, is run by volunteers and all proceeds go back to the hospital to purchase items such as stuffed animals for children coming into the emergency room and charging stations for family members in the cafeteria.

They also have Sutter prayer stones that loved ones can pick up for free. Family or friends can write a patient’s names on the stone, and they are then placed in a garden where they are prayed over.

And, just in case you were curious, the most popular sales item: Peanut M&Ms.

How to Volunteer Where You Live

As a not-for-profit medical network in Northern California, Sutter Health is appreciative of the many volunteers who give of their time and talents to help deliver its mission to improve the health of everyone. There are many roles volunteers can play in a healthcare setting. To find out how you can volunteer, go to https://www.sutterhealth.org/volunteering.

Read the Other Two Volunteer Week Installments

Meet Diane Weissmuller, who brings her lived experience to a liver transplant support group in San Francisco.

Meet Don Eberhard, who cheers up patients, visitors and staff by tickling the ivories at a medical care center in the Peninsula.

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