Part of volunteer Erna Hamm’s duties at Penticton Regional Hospital is working with patients. The 94-year-old is retiring after 33 years of volunteering. Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton woman, 94, has volunteered over 13,000 hours at the hospital

A 94-year-old woman retired from volunteer duties this week at Pentction hospital at age 94

At age 94, Erna Hamm worked her final shift on Penticton Regional Hospital’s (PRH) oncology ward Wednesday, completing 33 years of volunteer service for the hospital.

When she finished her teaching career in Chilliwack just after she turned 60, Erna decided to pursue her passions for helping people and health care when she moved to Penticton.

“The last few years when I was a teacher/librarian I had a lot of parents volunteer and I appreciated that so much, I decided when I retire I’m going to volunteer,” said Hamm who was given a send off party last week at the hospital. “I thought, I always wanted to be a nurse. I’m going to work at the hospital, so I went to see (the supervisor) and she said, ‘sure we can use you,’ and I never left.”

Related: This woman is 94 and celebrated her birthday by ziplining

In the more than three decades she has been helping at PRH, Hamm worked over 13,000 hours, which equals to more than a year and a half of seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

“Wow,” was PRH volunteer co-ordinator Launa Stocker’s reaction when she did the number crunch of Hamm’s volunteer hours. “Erna’s been phenomenal, I’ve only worked with her for less than a year but I worked in the admitting department for eight years prior to that so I knew she was valuable all along.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her this last year, I’m really going to miss her.”

By the time she left, Hamm was spending 11 hours a week at the hospital working in oncology, the clinics desk and the information desk, providing blankets for patients, making sure people were in the right area and escorting them to where they needed to be.

“On the whole, most of the people are appreciative, I’ve met a few of the other kind, but that just makes you appreciate the others that much more,” said Hamm, who still drives her car and did a zip line ride to celebrate her last birthday.

Related: Candy Stripers giving back at Penticton hospital

According to those who know her, it’s that positive outlook on life and great sense of humour that makes her so good at the tasks she takes on, something very much evident when she talked about her decision to stop volunteering.

“I knew eventually I would have to retire and I want to retire when people still want me to be here, before they say ‘when is she going to leave?’ That’s the reason,” said Hamm. “Retiring today, Oct. 31st has nothing to do with Halloween, because if they celebrate Halloween they might forget I’m leaving, but I hope they don’t because I want them to miss me.”

As well as helping the public, she also very much enjoys training new volunteer recruits, preferring the “hands-on” approach — just the way she learned. She also enjoyed the fact that over the years hospital staff, doctors and nurses came to accept her as “a member of the family.”

Related: Candy Stripers bring a smile

She admitted the decision to leave now was not an easy one.

“I will miss it very much, but this is going to be a different chapter in my life,” she said. “I’ve had many different chapters in my life and I can handle this one, I’m going to. I’ve made up my mind I’m going to like it, I’ll smile even though I don’t feel like it.”


 

@PentictonNews
newstips@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


 MarkBrett
Send Mark Brett an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

 

Volunteer Erna Hamm, 94, helps a visitor at Penticton Regional Hospital this week. Mark Brett/Western News

Long time volunteer Erna Hamm helps new recruit Madison Avila with some training at Penticton Regional Hospital. Mark Brett/Western News

Just Posted

Penticton shelter meeting current need, accepting donations of blankets, clothing

The shelter offers 30 beds year-round and 25 more temporarily over the winter

Okanagan Similkameen could have a sister city in the south of France

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen considering agreement with wine region in southern France

Nature Wise: Thoughts in parting

Bob Handfield passes Nature Wise column on

Bob Ross is coming to Penticton in 2020

32 of the late painter and TV celebrity’s works will be on display at the Penticton Art Gallery

Princess Maggie presents Children’s Winter Carnival on Dec. 14

The Leadership class is hosting the event from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Doors open to Vernon’s first refill store

Vernon’s Refill Store may be answer to plastics problem

Okanagan RCMP not toying around when it comes to impaired drivers

Saturday, Dec. 7 is National Impaired Driving Enforcement Day

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

Crown delves into Sagmoen’s history with North Okanagan sex workers

Decision on validity of police search warrant will be made on Monday, Dec. 9

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

Summerland businesses participate in Sip N’ Shop

Downtown event on Dec. 14 will feature local beverages

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Most Read