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Her heart led her to Francis Scott Key Medical Center


A HEART PROBLEM presented the Francis Scott Key Medical Center with two of its most helpful volunteers.

After Louise Hobbs had open-heart surgery, she began volunteering there. Her husband Raymond began volunteering two years later. Louise has volunteered 3,500 hours in six years and Raymond has given 4,500 in four years.

At least three days each week they work in the hospital. Like many volunteers, they are modest about their work and quick to note there are better volunteers than themselves.

Their assumption is questionable, considering that if you walk through the hospital corridors with them, people are always glad to see them and are praising their efforts.

"I had open-heart surgery and afterwards I felt I could be especially helpful to those who have a heart condition," says Louise, who is retired from working in the city school system.

She volunteers in the cardiology department's heart health program, headed by Kerry Stewart. Louise stamps patients' cards and helps the patients travel through all facets of the system, including the exercise program. The hospital has a complete gym and workout classes which are also offered to the hospital's employees and volunteers.

Her greatest rewards, she says, are "two things: One is when a patient comes back and remembers and gives me a hug of thanks; the other and most important is when someone in the program takes the responsibility for his own health and begins to lose weight and exercise regularly and then we see the much healthier results."

Louise and Raymond have been married 36 years and have lived in Southeast Baltimore for 30 of them. They have two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

"I began volunteering at the hospital because I was driving her here practically every day for 22 months," explains Raymond, "and I figured I might as well be useful." Raymond, happy and outspoken, is retired as shipping supervisor for the Bruning Paint Company.

If someone manufactured lapel pins that said, "I am the most sociable and helpful person you know," the first pin would undoubtedly be presented to Raymond, who seems always ready to jump from his seat to help someone.

Ann Sussman, director of the hospital's volunteer services, says Raymond is there most of the time and is their jack-of-all-trades. He's really appreciated, Sussman says. The staff in the volunteer office includes Sussman and part-time worker Joan Hughes. There are also three other volunteers, Donna DePaula, Harold Dudley and Peggy Frank.

"We keep Raymond busy," says Sussman. "And his energy is endless. He records all volunteers' hours, does all the mailings, coordinates the community service programs such as health fairs and blood drives. He even walks here in the snow to be sure the office is open," she says.

A long and varied history precedes the name Francis Scott Key Medical Center. It began in 1774 as the Baltimore City and County almshouse, located on a 20-acre plot at Biddle and Eutaw streets. In 1822 it relocated to West Baltimore in a space bounded by Pulaski, Presstman, Lexington and Franklin streets and was called the Calverton Alms house.

Then, in 1866, another move was made to the present location on Eastern avenue and the medical center was renamed the Bayview Asylum.

In 1925 the facility became the Baltimore City Hospital and in 1982 the Johns Hopkins Hospital began managing it. Ownership was transferred to Hopkins Hospital and University in 1984, and the name became the Francis Scott Key Medical Center.

Many new buildings are being erected on the 134-acre grounds, which houses an acute care hospital, nursing home, allergy and asthma research building and the Mason F. Lord building, which at 714 feet long is the longest hospital building in America, according to Sussman.

There are 519 volunteers in 28 areas who gave 69,591 hours last year.

These volunteers have won the J.C. Penney award, the Thousand Points of Light award from President Bush and two volunteers -- Gene Mardone and Frank Kamarer -- won the hospital's Patient First Award. Volunteers also donated an organ/piano to the new geriatric building and raised money for the purchase of records and tapes for the oncology department. Mardone also refurbished the Chapel in memory of his late wife Sophie, who was also a volunteer.

If you are interested in learning more about the medical center's volunteer program or are interested in volunteering, call Sussman at 550-0100.

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