Patients who leave the Regional Medical Center of San Jose feeling better can thank their doctors, nurses and other caregivers. Patients who leave dressed better may want to thank longtime volunteer Doris Mae Carson.

Doris Mae CarsonAs keeper of the facility’s clothes closet, she spends hours searching secondhand stores for items in all sizes, for both men and women. When someone in need is treated and discharged, they can get clean clothes that fit them. That wasn’t always the case, and Carson remembers the exact moment she helped change things.

“We used to depend on donations to the clothes closet, so it wasn’t always easy to find something that a patient would want,” she says. “I was there when we got a call asking for a pair of men’s pants. We had nine pairs — all the same size: a 40-inch waist and 25-inch leg. I told my supervisor that things would be a lot easier if we used sweat pants with an elastic waist. They were 3-for-$10 at Walmart. My supervisor told me to buy some and they would reimburse me. That was the start.”

Once word spread that the closet had a supply of clothes available to patients, more requests started pouring in, especially from the emergency room, which tends to a number of homeless and poverty-stricken patients.

Now, the 80-year-old Carson travels by bus to local thrift shops to keep the closet well-stocked with about 100 pieces of clothing, and another 100 in a standby storage container. She goes on Tuesday, because that’s Senior Discount Day, and she watches for half-price sales to expand her buying power. Her average cost per piece of clothing: about $2.50. She knows just what types of items need replenishing, finds good deals and then takes the clothes home to wash and fold before they become part of the closet inventory.

“I enjoy shopping for the patients,” she says. “It enriches my life. Occasionally I see a patient being discharged wearing something that I picked up — and they look pretty good!”

Carson started volunteering at Regional Medical Center 21 years ago, after retiring from the U.S. Postal Service. She had been working for 31 years and didn’t know what to do with all of her newfound free time. Even after signing up as a tutor at the local library, she felt that she could do more. Her daughter’s mother-in-law volunteered at the hospital and suggested that Carson should too. She agreed, looking for ways to fill her days and finding a sense of fulfillment in helping others. In addition to keeping the closet supplied, Carson serves on the volunteer board and helps with the Junior Volunteer Scholarship Award fundraiser each year.

“I got more and more involved,” she says. “I just need it. It’s wonderful to get to fill my time with something positive.”

Volunteer Finalists

Barbara Leone
Eastside Medical Center
Snellville, Georgia
Barbara LeoneHCA Healthcare is saddened by the recent passing of Barbara Leone, who was an exceptional member of our volunteer family. In her time at Eastside Medical Center, Leone did more than give her time; she also gave her heart. She knitted mittens for Alzheimer’s patients so that they wouldn’t pull out their IVs. She used a shirt from a patient who passed away as material for small pillows that she gave to his children as a keepsake. In addition to her hospital work, Leone volunteered for the Red Cross and the local Literacy Council, and regularly baked treats for the town’s fire department. Her kindness inspired all around her, and she is greatly missed.

Constanza Roeder
Methodist Hospital
San Antonio, Texas
Constanza RoederPatients undergoing cancer treatment have a champion in Constanza Roeder. A survivor herself, she understands just how valuable a moment of beauty can be while undergoing treatment. And so she offers patients hope and the gift of art and music. She has performed bedside concerts and brought in guests to teach art classes and yoga. Patients display their works at the Methodist Oncology Art Gallery. Her belief in the power of the arts to heal led her to form a nonprofit, Hearts Need Art, which works to bring music and art to even more patients.