Q&A with a Nonagenarian Volunteer

Jean, a nonagenarian (a person in his or her nineties) is a familiar face at the front desk of Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Memphis.   

She is currently re-reading a series of books about a couple of Siamese cats that solve crimes. Jean loves mysteries but it is no mystery why she volunteers here.

Tell me a little about your history.


I have lived in Memphis all my life.  I am 91 years old and have been here a long time.  I graduated from Tech High School.  After graduation, I went to San Diego and met my husband.   We married in 1944.  We had 3 sons, umpteen grandchildren and great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.    My husband was on a big battleship and it was torpedoed and then he was on a destroyer and that was torpedoed and sunk but he survived in the Pacific.   They tried to get back to Honolulu and the ship broke apart and they had to abandon ship.  No one on the ship was lost and they all got to Honolulu. He lived until 1989.


How long have you volunteered here and how often do you do it?


It has been so long, 18 or 19 years, on Tuesdays.  2 of my sons died of cancer and that was the only time I did not volunteer.


Why do you volunteer?


I like to help people and I love this place and feel like it is home.  As long as I am able to get up here and they will let me come, I’ll stay.


What is your favorite part of the house?


When I first started volunteering, Building A was all we had.   We only had one housekeeper so the volunteers had to do housekeeping on the common areas.  We washed windows, ran vacuum cleaners, and wiped everything down for sanitation.  When we got frost-free refrigerators, we thought we had died and gone to heaven because before that we would have to come in and boil water and let the frost melt out of the refrigerators.


What is your favorite part of what you do here now?


Well, the only thing I do now is sit at the front desk but I think I have done a little bit of it all down here.


What is it about RMHC Memphis that you appreciate?   


I appreciate what they do for families because I know what it is to lose a child. Only thing is mine were grown but I know what it is and what you are going through.  I know what it is to have a place where people honestly care about you.


What would you tell people who are considering volunteering at RMHC Memphis?


It is worth it because you get a sense that you are doing something worthwhile other than just sitting at home reading a book or going to the movies or out to eat.  You are honestly doing something worthwhile.


What is most special about RMHC Memphis?


It is what they give the families.  The families that stay here have everything.  They get a food allowance.  They take care of the families where they don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from or how am I going to pay for this or that.  It takes a lot of strain off of them because they are going through enough with their child being sick.   

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at 12:00 PM
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