St. Luke’s volunteer in her nineties says helping others gives her youthful exuberance

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Thelma Gadberry has been volunteering at Saint Luke's Hospital since 1981. The nurses call the 91-year-old woman their sunshine.

"I had time on my hands, and I had a mother who was not well, and I decided I should try something to help older people... and never left!" said Gadberry, who volunteers every Thursday.

"I am in my 90's now, and I don`t feel it when I`m here, I feel as young as everybody else, and I feel like I'm doing something for somebody else that is very appreciated," adds Gadberry.

"Everyday I look down the hall, I see her on Thursdays," said Sean O'Gara, a hospital employee. "I come down, check on her, see how she`s doing."

Thelma has become quite smitten with O'Gara.

"She calls me her boyfriend," he said.

"Thursdays are her day... that`s where she gets her name 'Thelma Thursday'" said Andrea Helt, a nurse.

Helt says she and Thelma have become very close over the years.

"She was here when I got married, when I had my babies," Helt added. "She's exactly like a family member."

Thelma mostly works at the desk now due to her age, but she still talks to everybody, knows the patients, housekeepers, and staff... and loves being around people.

"When she first started she did a lot more for patient care, and that`s what she actually enjoyed so much about it is helping others and as she`s gotten older she`s obviously taken on less rolls, but it`s the same presence that she brings that makes it such a great thing," O'Gara said.

"Even when she`s not here on some days, people ask where`s Thelma," said Helt.

"It`s amazing how long and how much time she`s put in here, and how much she`s probably see at this hospital and what she`s done for it," added O'Gara.

"I enjoyed what I was doing, I was getting older, I knew how older people felt when they came to the hospital, and I decided I could pitch in and make it more comfortable and better for them," Thelma said, "Most of all I enjoy the people that I work with, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Thelma says as long as she has her health and her mind --shes going to continue volunteering.

For more info on volunteering at Saint Luke's Hospital, click on this link.

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