MCH volunteers provide decades of service to hospital

Helen Jones, Mary McQueen, Faye Smith and Jo Baker talk about their experiences giving of their time at Medical Center Hospital and what it's meant to them during an April 29 interview at the hospital. They are all 90 or above. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

They may be 90 and above, but Jo Baker, Faye Smith, Helen Jones and Mary McQueen are volunteer powerhouses for Medical Center Hospital.

Jones started volunteering in 2004; McQueen has been giving of her time for 30 years; Smith for 22 years; and Baker for 28 years in October.

The women began giving of their time for various reasons and have stuck with it because of the people they meet, those around them and the sense of purpose it gives them.

Smith, who is 90, moved to Odessa in 1964. She was a homemaker and started volunteering in 2002 after her husband passed away.

He had spent 16 months in the hospital over a two-year period so the hospital staff became her family. She started in the gift and coffee shop until it closed then helped in the Cath Lab waiting room, Wheatley Stewart Pre-op desk, Patient Services, Popcorn and currently works in the ICU/Surgery waiting room and at the front reception desk.

She is also a former Auxiliary Board member. She volunteers Monday through Friday every week.

“Everybody treated us so good and so I decided I could do something to help the hospital,” Smith said.

Jones, 91, moved to Odessa in 1957 and just retired from Ector County ISD School Nutrition in 2020.

She started volunteering in 2004 after she and her pastor visited patients in hospital. She delivered magazines and flowers to patients first.

She has also volunteered at Wheatley Stewart and currently in the ICU/Surgery waiting room.

“I thought it was a nice thing to do, so I’ve been volunteering ever since,” Jones said.

McQueen, 93, moved to Odessa in 1952 and had a daycare business.

She joined the Auxiliary in 1993 after a friend invited her and started as escort/transporter for hospital and currently at Wheatley Stewart pre-op lab. She also volunteered at the front desk briefly and the gift and coffee shop.

McQueen said she just likes people and she had a friend that volunteered a long time ago when they wore pink pinafores.

“I just thought it was really neat and she enjoyed it, so I thought I’d enjoy that, too,” she added.

MCH volunteers Helen Jones, Faye Smith, Mary McQueen and Jo Baker pose for a photo at the hospital’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon with the theme of a Caribbean Cruise. Volunteer Services Coordinator Adina Crain said they are an inspiration every day. (Courtesy Photo)

Baker, 90, moved to Odessa in March 1956 from the Hill Country.

“I started volunteering at Medical Center after retirement from City of Odessa. This was October 1996. Even before retiring I always planned on volunteering at Medical Center. At one time, the auxiliary had a line dance group I wanted to join. They disbanded before I retired, but I still wanted to volunteer to be useful and maybe help someone else,” she said.

Baker said she will keep volunteering as long as she’s able.

“I enjoy meeting other people and makes me feel useful and needed. Besides Reception and ICU/Surgery waiting room for a short time, I worked at what was called Patient Services,” she said.

Jones said she loves talking to the patients in the ICU waiting room and she’s made many friends, which is what keeps her coming back.

McQueen said she enjoys all the people at the hospital.

“They’re very special,” she added.

Baker said she enjoys being useful.

“It makes you feel good if you can help someone and so that’s why I enjoy it. I work at the reception desk and ICU and surgery waiting room also,” Baker said.

The volunteers said they have created a family through their work.

Baker added that she’s always recruiting.

“I just tell them that it’s a great thing to do and I enjoy it. I’m pretty sure they would enjoy it and it’s just nice meeting people and helping people,” Baker said.

Smith said she used to volunteer at church in the nursery for the Sunday School hour, but she got too old and had to give it up.

“I just love helping people,” she added.

Jones said she would tell people thinking about volunteering at MCH that it’s a good thing to do and a good chance to meet people.

“You’re never too old to volunteer to help people,” McQueen said.

It seems to keep the women young. Smith said it’s better than sitting at home watching TV.

Volunteer Services Manager Adina Crain said the women are an inspiration to everyone.

“They give up their time, their talents and their energy to be here. And I hope they’ll encourage others to come on in and give it a try because I really do truly think that you’ve got to keep moving to get to your 90s and these ladies are a great example of that. They are a value to us for their service, as well as the friendships that they’ve made with each other and that I’ve been able to have with them so (I’m) very, very grateful for all of them and for the others coming up behind them,” Crain said.

Crain added that the women are experts in their field and their departments and have been welcoming to the newer volunteers.

“They’ll take them under their wing and train them at their desks and like Jo said, she’s a great recruiter for us. She’s bringing in a couple right now that I was interviewing this morning. We’re so thankful that they speak positively about their experiences. It will help us fill back up because obviously we lost quite a few with COVID and like she said, just the attrition that happens as we age. But they are just truly amazing ladies who will definitely take you under your wing if you want to try it out,” Crain said.

She added that they are currently working on a scrapbook outline of the whole year’s activities. One page will be dedicated to these volunteers and it’s titled “Age is Just a Number.”

“It really is as young as we feel and just getting up each day to give back and stay active mentally and physically. We are going to honor them in our little scrapbook with their own special page,” Crain said.