Patty Stremsterfer is an 85-year-old Memorial Medical Center volunteer, farmer’s wife, and mother of three. Married to Harold for 65 years, together they had three beautiful children. When, in 1976 at the age of 44, she was no longer needed at home she decided to take up volunteer work.
With her 40 years of service, eighteen21.com reached out to Patty to find out more.
What volunteer work do you do?
I volunteer in the 6C ICU lounge and serve as a liaison for friends and families whose loved one is undergoing a cardiac procedure. We help connect the doctors to the family members when they have updates, keep families informed of operating schedules, and provide support and assistance with beverages, lockers, etc.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer?
I used to bowl with a lady that was a retired schoolteacher. She was the ‘play lady’ in the pediatric department. (She played with the children while they were here as patients.) She encouraged me to volunteer. It took a couple weeks to decide because I hadn’t been out in the public for years, due to being a farmer’s wife. I was scared. Harold was for it and said he would haul grain by himself if it meant I could volunteer. I was 44 years old and it was just change. A woman is capable of anything, just try it, you’ll like it!
What was the main reason that you chose Memorial Medical Center?
It was my hospital.
How many hours a week do you volunteer?
Four hours at Memorial, along with a variety of other hours doing other volunteer work. I’m unsure of how many hours weekly. I used to push the ‘gift cart’ here at Memorial and loved it because I could see the patients. I also spend a lot of time sewing at home.
Do you volunteer with any other organizations or for any events?
I volunteer at my community club, which sponsors the Pleasant Plains fireworks, gives scholarships, organizes the Halloween party (I’m in charge of a card party), helps coordinate events, fundraise, and more. I spend time at the church, serving funeral dinners, helping during luncheons, and making knot blankets with prayers. I also sew small outfits and “angel pockets” for babies who don’t go home. The delicate gowns are made out of donated wedding dresses. My granddaughter saw it on the internet and thought I should do it. So, I went to the hospitals (St. John’s and Memorial) and gave them these small gifts to give families who were experiencing a perinatal loss.
What is the most challenging part of your volunteer work?
Sewing the angel pockets because that is for those who have lost a child and losing a child is the hardest thing there is.
What do you love most about volunteering at Memorial?
People, I love people. My husband and I both had open heart surgery, so I can relate to the families in the 6C ICU lounge and hope to help them get through something like this.
Could you take us through a brief rundown of a typical day at the hospital for you?
I ordinarily have lunch with a bunch of friends before I get started; friends made over the years volunteering here. Then I come up and sit at the desk and talk to people and connect the doctors with the correct families waiting in the lounges. Some days are harder than others. It can be hard when families are going through a grieving period.
What would you share with others who are thinking about becoming a volunteer?
The rewards are great. It’s a good feeling that you’ve done something for somebody else.
How do volunteers make a difference at Memorial?
We share a smile; I think that’s the biggest thing there is.
Is there anything else that you would like to add or share?
I’ll do it (volunteer) as long as I can drive. If I don’t go to the hospital or I don’t go to church, my week just doesn’t go right.
Those who would like to join Patty in lending a hand, smile, and making a difference can fill out an application at www.MemorialMedical.com/community/volunteers or call 217-788-3352.
Photo credit: Becky Gabany