At least two days each week, Mimi Brody’s routine starts much the same way. She pops out of bed, makes herself presentable, grabs her crisp blue volunteer jacket, drives herself to Torrance Memorial’s new Specialty Center on Lomita Boulevard and reports to work. She’s on volunteer duty—a role she says is perfectly suited for anyone who is people-oriented, wants a good way to give back to the community and—perhaps most importantly—can keep a commitment.
Brody knows a thing or two about commitment. At 85 years old, she has been a fixture within the Torrance Memorial Volunteer Auxiliary for more than half her life—so long, in fact, that when she began volunteering it was at the original hospital location on Engracia Avenue in downtown Torrance.
Brody had moved to Torrance with her family and realized that, with the kids in school, she needed something to keep her busy. That was in 1969. Today, more than 23,600 volunteer hours later, keeping busy is keeping her young.
“Volunteering is fulfilling and makes you appreciate what you have,” Brody says. “It helps my mind stay active. It feeds the soul. It definitely keeps me young. I see people much younger than I am who are struggling, and I’m grateful I can still come in twice a week. I’m grateful I can still move!”
Over the past 44 years, Brody says much has changed. The hospital is bigger, of course, and serves more people. Not to mention that everything is computerized. But she adds that much has stayed the same, including the helpfulness and friendliness of health care providers and staff.
“The hospital administration is fabulous—volunteers are able to get involved in many areas of the hospital, from the emergency room to the ICU, which is unique,” she says. “And we are appreciated. Some of the doctors don’t know who I am, but they see the blue uniform, and they say, ‘Thank you.’ This really makes for a more rewarding experience.”
The Volunteer Auxiliary, around for more than 60 years, boasts some 900 people who give back to the hospital’s patients, families and visitors by using their talents and skills to provide assistance, companionship and meaningful interaction. Many take on leadership positions; Brody serves on the Auxiliary board of directors, for example.
Della Weinhuff, who has spent 25,900+ hours volunteering with the Auxiliary, agrees that the people—fellow volunteers, staff and patrons—are a large part of why she, too, is at the hospital twice a week. “I’m not at home thinking about myself but out with wonderful people and helping others, and it does so much for me. I just love it; it’s so worthwhile.”
Weinhuff, who like Brody has served on the board as well as headed up the state volunteer services, can remember one particularly interesting change since she came onboard managing the Auxiliary gift shop in 1976. Her very first job was to stock cigarettes in the shop. Times have indeed changed, but the feeling of accomplishment that volunteering brings is constant, she says.
She is still proud she led the hospital to set up a payroll deduction plan for the gift shop as a convenience to employees looking to shop without opening their wallets. She’s thankful she was able to use her interest in accounting to create new systems like that one. Today Weinhuff spends much of her time at the registration/information desk, relying on her long-amassed knowledge of the hospital to help people coming through the front doors feel welcomed and taken care of.
“You never know what someone’s circumstance is—why they’re coming to the hospital. I try to make everyone feel comfortable. As a volunteer, the most important thing you can do is to try and give something back to other people.”
Friend and fellow volunteer Alice Young had just lost her son 28 years ago, and she knew she needed to get herself out of the house—to bring something new and different to her own life. She went to Torrance Memorial to volunteer at the advice of others, and she says she gets more out of it today than she ever has. She has kept in touch with many friends who were volunteering there at the time, and she’s made new friends that she looks forward to catching up with week after week.
“This is a very important part of my life,” Young says. “I was a stay-at-home mom and had never done anything like managing a gift shop or serving on the board, but I’ve enjoyed it all.”
She emphasizes that volunteering is also vitally important from a social aspect, particularly for aging adults or the newly retired. “We need that mental stimulation and the social interaction,” she says.
Young is at the registration/information desk twice a week at least. She has worked almost every volunteer job in the hospital, including the emergency room floor and many others. She thrives on providing excellent customer service.
“People who come in the door are often scared to death,” she says. “We always greet them with a smile. We never simply give directions. If someone needs go down the hall to the left, we walk with them down the hall to the left.”
Young has contributed more than 28,900 hours to the Volunteer Auxiliary. She aims to volunteer for a long time to come. “Or as long as one can at this age,” she says with a smile.
It’s never too early—or too late—to volunteer. If you are interested in more information, contact Volunteer Services at 310-517-4752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.