Giving Back Through the Gift Shop: A Volunteer’s Experience
After Barbara Torres tragically lost her husband in March 2018, she was seeking ways to connect within her community. “I felt like I needed to get out of the house,” said Barbara, who had retired after working as a human resources director for LA Metro. A friend suggested she explore volunteering at her local hospital, so she applied at Emanate Health Foothill Presbyterian Hospital. Barbara also served at a few other organizations around that same time but did not feel like any of them were a good fit for her. Once Emanate Health reached out to her, she said with a smile, “The rest was history.”
For the past five years, Barbara has regularly volunteered in the hospital’s gift shop and joined its auxiliary, serving as its social chair. She likes working in the gift shop because it provides visitors with an opportunity to “take a break and get out of the room [of their loved ones].” Barbara recalled a special encounter with a customer who came to purchase a special gift for herself because she had received positive news about her breast cancer treatment. After conversing for a few minutes, Barbara, who is also a breast cancer survivor, discovered that she and the customer had the same doctor—the customer has returned on more than one occasion to the gift shop just to visit Barbara.
While Barbara has encouraged several friends to join her as an Emanate Health volunteer (“I have to practice what I preach,” she laughed), what has surprised her most about her volunteer experience is the number of close relationships she has made. “I didn’t expect to make such wonderful friends,” she said. “Many of these women have been volunteering for a long time, so I look up to them as mentors too.”
In addition to her fundraising work with the auxiliary, Barbara has also supported Emanate Health Foundation through its annual Autumn Nocturne gala. At last year’s event, the auxiliaries were formally acknowledged for their significant gifts of time, talent and treasure to the hospitals. “That meant a lot to us,” she shared. Barbara, who came with her parents to the United States from Cuba at age 2, considers herself an “altruistic” person: “A lot of people helped us when we came to this country,” she recalled, “I enjoy helping people.”
To learn more about becoming an Emanate Health volunteer like Barbara, visit www.emanatehealth.org/volunteers or call 626.858.8527.