WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Barbara Hitchcock found her comfort zone as a volunteer at Putnam Hospital Center in 1997. Now, seventeen years later, she still hasn’t left, and has no intentions of ever doing so.
Hitchcock volunteers four days a week and puts in eight hours each day at PHC. She said recent paperwork showed her volunteer hours at 11,659 during her years of service.
“I made up my mind I wasn’t going to sit around the house,’’ said Hitchcock, who is always there for her volunteer assignments at the hospital even though she does not drive. “I’ve been offered jobs by a few doctors but I tell them no. This is what I enjoy doing. I work with a good group, and I enjoy working with them all.”
Hitchcock’s 30-year career as a home health aide helped prepare her for her volunteer role at Putnam Hospital Center, an affiliate of Health Quest. She works primarily at the front reception desk, providing assistance along with directions to patients and visitor. She also volunteers at the hospital's gift shop, but is ready and able to work with any department that needs a volunteer.
She is much more, however, than a friendly face in the hospital’s main lobby; she is someone people can connect with and count on to help. Patients and family members feel instantly comfortable talking to Hitchcock, and she feels comfortable speaking with them, too.
“I think it comes naturally,’’ Hitchcock said. “I was always that way with people. Some people have a hard time talking to others; it just comes naturally to me. I just feel I have a heart for people.”
Hitchcock said that even as a young girl, she had a gift for speaking with people and letting them know they were not alone. “Helping people is something that was born in me. Even when I was younger, if someone needed help I was there trying to help them any way I could.”
Hitchcock started volunteering after the death of her husband, Albert. She has found a home at Putnam Hospital Center. And she plans to do it for as long as she can.
“I intend to go as long as I can and as long as I can get a ride to the hospital,’’ she said. “And as long as they need me. This is my life. I love this. There’s nothing else I can see myself doing.”