Longtime Volunteer a Blessing for Mercy Hospital Springfield

By Mercy's Madelynn Innes

You may not have had the pleasure yet of meeting volunteer Sharon Patterson, but make no mistake: this 71-year old has the will, and if there’s not yet a way, she insists, “I’m trying to find it!”

Like many of our volunteers, Sharon and her husband, Paul, both had successful careers before joining Mercy Auxiliary. Sharon worked in the accounting field and raised three daughters -- instilling in each of them the same faith and determination that’s carried her through life’s toughest challenges.

“My mother has instilled in me that I’m limited to nothing with the Lord, family and friends,” said Sharon’s middle child, Paula Nelson, who’s worked for Mercy 25 years as a medical social worker.

“It’s a matter of making up your mind and telling yourself ‘I can do it,’" Sharon added.

By the strength of her faith and the support of her family and friends, Sharon is taking on macular degeneration “head on,” and she’s not giving up! For the last 14 years, her eyesight has been severely challenged to the point that she has very little peripheral vision, but that hasn’t deterred her from continuing her service at Mercy Hospital Springfield’s Information Desk.

“My mother loves her volunteering and refuses to sit at home and give up,” explained Nelson.

“As I’ve gotten older and this happened, my mind was made up that I’d do everything I could; I wasn’t going to shut my life down,” Sharon added.

Since joining Mercy's auxiliary in 2009, Sharon has missed very few Thursdays at the front desk. “She’s a very dedicated, loyal volunteer,” says Director of Volunteer Services Molly Holtmann. “Because of her macular degeneration, she has to use two different magnifying glasses to look up patient information. She certainly does not let her disability get her down.” 

Volunteering has been a part of Sharon’s life, so it was a natural transition when her eye problems forced her to retire. “I told my husband, I have to do something else.”

Paul, on the other hand, wasn’t as familiar with auxiliary work, but being a good husband, he agreed to join her, at first to see if he’d like it. He’s been a volunteer at Mercy's burn unit ever since.

For Sharon, some days at the information desk are busier than others, but even if she’s helped just one person, she assures, “that’s what I want. Besides, being here makes me feel that I’ve had a love-filled day. I’ve been blessed, and maybe been a blessing to someone else.”

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