Volunteer opportunities rewarding, plentiful at Valley Baptist-Harlingen

HARLINGEN – It is often said that those who choose to donate their time are special people – the volunteers of Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen are no exception to that saying.

Ranging in age from 15 to 95, volunteers at the hospital make important contributions to healthcare in the Rio Grande Valley each day by donating their time and compassion for patients, hospital staff, and the community.

From staffing information desks, to visiting with patients, to delivering packages and supplies throughout the hospital, the 150 adult and 75 student volunteers at Valley Baptist-Harlingen make countless impacts on the lives they touch every day.

Joe Plomin, who at nearly 96 years old is the eldest member of the volunteer corps at Valley Baptist-Harlingen, volunteers two days a week at Valley Baptist-Harlingen, and has donated his time to the hospital for more than 23 years, starting soon after he and his late wife, Garnette, moved to Harlingen in 1990.

“I started volunteering in the outpatient pharmacy and did that for about 16 years, but for the last seven I’ve worked with Materials Management to deliver parcels to the different departments at the hospital,” said Plomin. “I’ve volunteered all my life, from scouting to volunteering at the schools our children attended. It just feels natural to me. When we moved here we were looking for a place to volunteer and Valley Baptist seemed like a place to help our community.”

In addition to his daily deliveries, Plomin spends time making stuffed animals that are given to children who receive care through the Valley Baptist-Harlingen Emergency Room.

Katie McCarty, Volunteer Services Director for Valley Baptist Health System, said Plomin has made more than 13,000 of the stuffed toys during his tenure at Valley Baptist-Harlingen, bringing in bags filled with the hand-crafted animals every few weeks.

“Joe, like many of our volunteers, is a constant. He has made volunteering part of his daily life, and he doesn’t miss a day, if he can help it,” McCarty said. “He takes pride in his work and in making the world a better place.”

In addition to his lengthy service at Valley Baptist-Harlingen, Plomin said that he has lived what he describes as a “full life.”

During a recent volunteer awards luncheon, Plomin had the opportunity to share that life with his fellow volunteers in the form of his memoirs, which he signed for each volunteer in attendance.

The book offers a personal account of Plomin’s life, from growing up in Chicago, to his experiences in World War II when he served in the U.S. Army, battling the Germans along the front lines in France before being captured and spending six months as a prisoner of war.

“Volunteering at Valley Baptist gives me so much satisfaction, and it gives me a sense of doing something not only for myself, but for my community,” Plomin said of the time he spends at the hospital. “This is a real opportunity for people to make a difference in their community. You really have the chance to get involved, and your fellow volunteers become like a second family.”

McCarty agreed with Plomin’s description of the volunteer community at Valley Baptist-Harlingen.

Our volunteers are one big, happy family,” she said.

“I see through their interactions with one another that they truly care about each other. This caring attitude flows to the patients, staff and visitors we serve every day, which helps create a positive, healing environment.”

To volunteer at Valley Baptist-Harlingen, visit https://www.valleybaptist.net/for-family-visitors/volunteer-with-us, or contact Katie McCarty at 956-389-1193 or email Katie.mccarty@valleybaptist.net.