Hilton Head Island woman, 95, reaches 16,000 hours of volunteer time at hospital

loberle@islandpacket.comAugust 11, 2013 

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Hilton Head Island's Millie Timmerman puts fresh sheets on a hospital bed Sunday morning inside the emergency room at Hilton Head Hospital. Timmerman has worked over 16,000 hours as a volunteer in the last 20 years.

SARAH WELLIVER — Staff photo Buy Photo

On Millie Timmerman's Hilton Head Hospital ID badge are two pins -- one she received for 14,000 hours of volunteers service and the other she received in July for completing 16,000 hours.

Sixteen thousand hours -- the equivalent of 400 40-hour work weeks, what would be almost eight years of full-time work. For Timmerman, 95, it's been 16 hours of volunteering each week for the past 20 years.

"I couldn't believe it," Timmerman said of being surprised by the hospital staff with a celebratory cake in the emergency room in July. "It didn't seem like that many."

There are other pins -- the ones Timmerman received for 1,000 hours, 5,000 hours, 10,000 hours of volunteering. Dr. Robert Clodfelter, an emergency room doctor, tacks Timmerman's old pins in a picture frame hanging in the emergency room's doctor's office.

"I don't know why," Timmerman said. "He just doesn't want to me throw them away."

Timmerman began volunteering at the hospital in 1991 after her husband died in a car wreck. She was a widow, and needed something to fill her time.

"The weekends were really bad for me," Timmerman said. "They're not so bad now."

She volunteers the first, third and fifth weekends of every month, working two eight-hour shifts in the emegency room.

"Millie is a treasure, she is a gift," said Jody MacLeod, director of volunteer services at the hospital. "There's not too many left in her generation, and she has stayed true and dedicated and passionate about hospital volunteering."

In the emergency room, Timmerman works to lighten the load of the nurses -- changing beds after patients have been discharged, stocking the linen closests, checking the rooms to make sure they have the right furniture.

"I want to help so that nurses can be nurses and not doing the nitty, gritty things," Timmerman said. "I don't mind mess, or patient mess. If a bed pan needs emptying, I'll empty it."

She also works to provide comfort for the patients -- retrieving warm blankets or a glass of water, calling on nurses and doctors when they need assistance.

"If you can get a blanket for a patient, it comforts the patients and helps the nurses," Timmerman said.

Once while walking through Shelter Cove, a man stopped Timmerman and told his wife how she put a warm blanket on him when he was admitted into the ER.

"It gets cold and the patients will freeze in there," Timmerman said.

Before moving to Hilton Head 30 years ago, Timmerman was an elementary school teacher in Delaware. She has no medical background, but had an interest in nursing growing up.

"Many times I wish I had been a nurse," Timmerman said. "So now, I get a chance to help nurses and be a part of that."

After a weekend of volunteering, Timmerman is tired. But more so, she is thankful for the opportunity and the ability she has to help others.

"I feel that I'm not only helping the nurses or the patients, I'm doing something that is not just for me," Timmerman said. "I go home and I say 'thank you God.' I'm just grateful for being able to do it."

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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