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Ella Lerner, 95, and Mary Lou Golembiewski, 80, who recently retired together from Chandler Regional, met a little over 14 years ago when Golembiewski was assigned to volunteer on Friday mornings in the East Valley hospital’s gift shop.
“I had volunteered at a hospital in Michigan and wanted to continue volunteering when my husband and I moved to Arizona,” says Golembiewski who raised 11 children and has 34 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. “I visited Chandler Regional and they assigned me to work Friday mornings in the gift shop, which is when I met Ella. We’ve been friends ever since.”
The two women have volunteered at Chandler Regional for a combined 34 years which accumulates to nearly 9,000 hours of service. Because of their selfless dedication, the women received a Presidential Service Award which comes complete with a service pin and thank you letter from President Barack Obama. They also received a letter from the Mayor of Chandler recognizing them for their work.
Almost 95-years-old, Lerner says she is sad to retire. She enjoys people and especially looks forward to visits from the hospital’s pet therapy volunteers.
“I have been lucky to be here, to have met Mary Lou and countless others,” says Lerner. Prior to moving to Arizona with her late husband, Lerner survived four years in a Holocaust concentration camp, spent time in Australia and performed office work in New York. “Chandler Regional is a pleasant place. I like to be around people and nice things, so the gift shop was the place for me,” she adds. “I have volunteered there for nearly 25 years and have had only good experiences.”
Cherished by their peers and hospital staff, Lerner and Golembiewski agree that volunteering at Chandler Regional provided them with lifelong friends, and feel the work they performed at the hospital was valuable. Dignity Health volunteers provide support to Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert Medical Centers, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Westgate Medical Center and within Dignity Health Urgent Care centers. All volunteer efforts add to the comfort and satisfaction of patients, staff and visitors.