Banner Gateway Medical Center volunteer celebrates last day after nearly 57 years of service

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When representatives from Mesa Lutheran Hospital approached Ruth Wootten and a couple friends with the opportunity to volunteer at the soon-to-open hospital, she was quick to accept the offer. At the time, Banner Gateway Medical Center had yet to have been built.

“I was a stay-at-home mom, and I thought it would be more interesting than discussing stretch marks and whose child was ill with everybody,” she said.

Almost 57 years later, the 90-year-old volunteer celebrated her last day of service at Banner Gateway on June 24 surrounded by staff, friends, and family. Banner Gateway replaced Mesa Lutheran, which had been renamed Banner Mesa, in 2011.

According to Wootten, volunteering was more than just an opportunity to do something outside of the house; It gave her the ability to make an impact on the lives of others.

“I had been very blessed in my personal situation and my family,” she said. “So it was something I could do that maybe made a difference, and that’s kind of kept me going.”

Wootten said her favorite part about volunteering, as well as what she is going to miss the most, is the people she interacted with every day.

“The people coming through this door may be very familiar with hospitals or may be very unfamiliar and scared,” she said. “I remember how uncertain I was about hospitals, so [I am] trying to be as helpful and reassuring as possible.”

Wootten, who lives in Tempe, said she is no longer volunteering at the hospital because she needs to give up driving. However, she said will be volunteering at the library at Friendship Village senior living, where she lives, as well as helping her church update its history.

And she will keep busy in other ways, too.

“I use my computer a lot to tell my elected officials how I want my money spent,” Wootten said. “They’re not listening to me, so they need more letters from me.”

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