Meet Carol Pustay, 72, of Huntington, who has logged over 4,000 volunteer hours at Huntington Hospital.
Why did you choose this? How did you get started?: I started volunteering at Huntington Hospital before I retired. I had some time on my hands, my children were grown, and I was interested in giving back to the community. Since I was retiring in a few years, I was looking for something to give me a purpose after that. I saw a volunteering ad for the hospital in the Pennysaver, and said, “Okay, this looks interesting.” I got in touch with Gina Torchon [Huntington Hospital’s volunteer coordinator]. She’s a magnificent person. She’s so warm, so giving, so interested. She really made me feel right at home. Even though I was working and couldn’t get too many hours, she valued whatever time I had.
I started out with two hours a week, as a supervisor for the junior volunteer program. The hospital has a very exciting junior volunteer program 14 to 18 year olds. When I retired, I expanded my time at the hospital and worked in the surgical waiting area, where I worked with families and people that were having surgery that day. You help them, you try to make them calm and comfortable while they’re waiting.
Then I got involved with the Auxiliary as well. The Auxiliary fundraises for the hospital and does some advocacy and outreach programs, like helping the staff with the blood drive. We also have other programs that go beyond helping the staff. Right now I’m co-president of the Auxiliary. Now that I’m retired, I have many more hours on my hands. I’m meeting a lot of people, a lot of nice people all with the same focus of helping. I don’t have too much interaction with the patients, just given what my service is, but, any little thing to do at the hospital with volunteering makes an impact.
What is your biggest achievement or takeaway from volunteering so far?: I just get so much working with the junior volunteers. They’re inspiring to me. These young people are starting out. I think that when they come to volunteer, it forms their ideas of what the future may look like. Some of the older junior volunteers, who are 16 or 17, are looking to college, and a lot of them are looking to the medical field. Volunteering gives them an opportunity to decide whether they really want this. And, as supervisor, you’re guiding them. You’re encouraging them. They talk to you about your experiences. They get such compassion and empathy doing this. And that’s so inspiring to me. It makes me feel good that a generation is doing this. It me feel good that I’m helping these teenagers find purpose in life, too.
Final thoughts: Some of my friends are nearing retirement and they say, “I don’t know if I want to retire; what will I do with myself?” I just say, “Believe me, you’ll find things to do. And one of the best places to start is to volunteer.” If a hospital isn’t your thing, there are other places to volunteer as well. But getting involved in your community gives you a sense of purpose to your life. You look forward to getting up every day, and doing something, being with other people. I encourage anybody, especially older people who have time on their hands, to get involved. It’s a very very rewarding experience.
For more information: Contact the director of volunteer services, Gina Torchon, at (631) 351-2257. Visit Huntington Hospital’s website to find out more ways to get involved.
HuntingtonNow.com is taking a look at those who volunteer their time to make Huntington a better place to live. If you want to nominate someone for a story, email us.