When Women and Children's Hospital was being built in Lake Charles in 1984, a housewife living on the street behind the construction decided she wanted to get plugged in with the new hospital.
What has followed are 29,000 hours of volunteering by this now great-grandma! 7News caught up with Mrs. Ramona Williams to see what keeps her going.
As soon as you walk into Women & Children's Hospital, you will smiling ladies (and gents!) in pink vests. They are tried and true volunteers, with leader of the pack, 79-year-old Ramona Williams, who has been clocking in for free since the day the hospital opened in 1984. "I was getting tired of coffee parties," she said, "so I told a friend, 'I'm gonna check that out.'"
Ramona was a homemaker - a wife and mother of four - when she first started greeting patients. It became a habit that she never wanted to break, that has now carried on for 28 years! "My husband says that I would give him up before the hospital," she said.
Ramona's husband of 62 years has accepted her second marriage to the hospital and the extended family she has created here, including volunteer, Carol Andreas. "Everybody is just so friendly and the hospital staff is just wonderful," said Carol, "we just really enjoy it."
Ramona has volunteered almost 30,000 hours at the hospital and if paid the minimum hourly wage, that would be a paycheck of nearly $250,000! "Nothing could repay for the satisfaction I get," she said.
The satisfaction has been through each person she has met through the years. "People come in and they say, 'I couldn't have gotten through the day without seeing you,'" she said, "and you don't know how much that means to myself and all of the other volunteers, we all feel the same."
Even though Ramona is approaching her 80th birthday and a time when most people are happy to slow down, this lady in pink does not ever plan to use the brakes. "I've always told them they'll take me straight from here to Johnson's Funeral Home," she said through laughter.
Ramona was awarded the hospital's first ever "Volunteer of the Year Award," something she says means the world to her.
If you are 18 or older and have at least four hours a week that you could volunteer, there are opportunities to connect at Women and Children's Hospital. For more information, call Volunteer Services at 475-4002.
Copyright KPLC 2012. All rights reserved.
320 Division Street
P.O. Box 1490
Lake Charles, LA 70601/70602