Oceanside resident Jane Reinert has spent more hours volunteering at South Nassau Communities Hospital than a two-year-old toddler has spent being alive. When she began serving, John F. Kennedy was working in the Oval Office.
South Nassau’s volunteer “troops,” many clad in pink jackets, invaded the facility’s Albert Conference Center for a special luncheon on April 26 to celebrate 61 years of volunteering at the facility.
Reinert, 93, who has eight great-grandchildren, has donated her time for 55 of those years, totally 17,572 hours of service to date. At 38 years old, her first assignment in 1962 was at the hospital’s coffee shop, where she worked for 10 hours per week. After a few years, the newly opened physical therapy department needed help, and for the next five years, Reinert answered phones, observed patients in the whirlpool baths and applied hot compresses to aching joints.
“I came and I liked the people, and I liked the feeling of doing something for other people,” Reinert recalled.
In 1970, she was promoted to manning the information desk, where she would direct visitors to patients’ rooms and answer phones. She has been there ever since, and now works one day a week for about five hours.
Annemarie Fernandez, South Nassau’s director of volunteer service, said working at the information desk can be challenging, as the friends and relatives of patients are often stressed about the care of their loved ones.
“She remains calm, cool and collected and gets on that computer and finds for patients’ family members where they need to go,” Fernandez said of Reinert. “She’s always very professional…and just a pleasant disposition. She’s always willing to help and serve.”
Many others were honored at the luncheon, which was attended by about 75 percent of the hospital’s total volunteer force. In 2016, 477 volunteers provided nearly 49,000 hours of service, Fernandez said. Oceanside resident Ruth McDade, who has given more than 4,500 hours to South Nassau, was named this year’s Five Star Volunteer Award recipient. A volunteer captain, she has worked at the hospital for two days a week for the last nine years, and has served in many different departments.
Joe Calderone lauded all the helpers that donate their time, which he called South Nassau’s “army.”
“We see the volunteers all the time in the lobby, in the hallways, but this is the only time of the year we see you all together and we realize this place wouldn’t work very well without you,” Calderone said to the packed room. “…It’s just inspiring really to see that the era of volunteerism is not dead — far from it.”
Reinert, who concluded the ceremony by blowing out the candles on a 55-year volunteer cake, said she was overwhelmed by being honored. She added that she still finds joy in the closeness of the hospital, despite how much it has grown over the years, and will continue to serve the many people that come for help.
“I still have that feeling of family, of caring,” Reinert said. “When that stops, I stop.”