Forty years ago, volunteering at Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) would often mean joining the Medical Auxiliary. Dues were $5 a year. Auxiliary members would dedicate their time assisting at the Information Desk or Gift Shop. The dress code was strict. In fact, Auxiliary members purchased their own uniforms and wore regulation blouses.
Dorothy Kalabus, YRMC’s longest-running volunteer, remembers those days with fondness and a good dose of her signature humor.
“Imagine today if you had to pay to be a volunteer!” she jokes.
Kalabus had just moved to Prescott from Pittsburgh. She had three school-aged children and her husband’s airline job often took him out of town. Not one to sit at home, she soon joined the Auxiliary and started a decades-long relationship with YRMC.
It wasn’t long before Kalabus was asked to join the Auxiliary Board. In those days, the Auxiliary Board decided upon ‘wish list’ purchases for the hospital, funded by proceeds from the Gift Shop. When her grandson was born, Kalabus recalls that the stress monitor, just purchased by the Auxiliary, was used during his delivery.
“I was so glad it was there for the staff to use,” says Kalabus.
Dorothy Kalabus is the 10th of 12 children. Her father died when she was eleven. She and her siblings were raised to pitch in whenever and wherever possible. She graduated with honors and earned college scholarships.
“There was never any idle time at our house,” she remembers. “I can’t even imagine sitting and doing nothing.”
Now, at nearly 80 years old, Kalabus still has the energy of someone a fraction of her age. Forty years at the YRMC Information Desk isn’t the only impressive item on her volunteer resume.
“Back in the 80’s I volunteered at Sacred Heart Church and at the Prescott Rodeo, where I became the chair of the Cattleman’s Club. I even earned my gold and silver rodeo belt buckle. I offered to stuff envelopes for Judge Ann Sterling’s campaign, and ended up becoming the campaign chair!”
Nancy Thomes, Director of Volunteer Services at YRMC, emphasizes the important role Kalabus plays at the Information Desk.
“Dorothy is such a joy to have at our Information Desk,” says Thomes. “This is a challenging position since the questions that are asked are often new. These volunteers often have to problem-solve while extending good customer service. Dorothy’s knowledge and willingness to serve is always evident, and the joy that she feels while doing this is always apparent.”
When asked why she has stayed with her service to YRMC for forty years, Kalabus explains, “This is so important. You’re dealing directly with people in need. People come in with so many different needs. Most of them aren’t just asking for a patient’s room number, and often they’re in pain or feeling stress. You have to remember a lot of information about the hospital, and communicate it simply and clearly.”
“And then there are the free lunches!” she laughs. “Every Friday, a dozen or so volunteers from all different departments get together for lunch, and new volunteers are always welcome. These people have all become my friends. We have such a good time!”
Kalabus notes that she belongs to a special ‘foursome’ that makes her time at YRMC extra special. She works with Escorts Carol Shepherd and Shirley Reeves and fellow Information Desk volunteer Rob Petrocci each Friday. “We’re a great team,” she says.
Kalabus was honored for her 40 years of service on July 2nd. Thomes and Chamine David, Volunteer Services Manager, visited Kalabus in her front yard for a ‘physically distanced’ celebration. Kalabus’ husband and daughter were there, as well as fellow volunteers Shepherd and Reeves. The neighbors across the street even held up a large handmade ‘Congratulations’ sign and took photos.
“Dorothy enjoyed telling a few stories about her first days at YRMC,” says Thomes. “It was clear that her commitment to her role began 40 years ago when she first started volunteering.”
“It was a fun visit,” Kalabus recalls. “There were balloons and flowers and we visited and reminisced. It’s fun telling the old stories and marveling at how far YRMC has come over the years. But I still can’t believe it’s been 40 years!”
“I tell people that volunteering gives you life,” she explains. “It gives you something to look forward to and makes your life so much more interesting. Volunteering changes your whole world.”
Kalabus continues. “When I started volunteering at YRMC 40 years ago, it was just to get to know a few people in my new hometown. But soon, I came to realize that this is a commitment. And as you can tell, when I start something, I finish it. Well, I’m not finished yet!”
To learn more about becoming a volunteer at Yavapai Regional Medical Center visit yrmc.org, or call Volunteer Services in Prescott at (928) 771-5678, or in Prescott Valley at (928) 442-8678.