7960508055?profile=originalEzzat Fairplay (left), Mildred Strom and Bette Cumpton are among the 10 or so neighbors

at Harbour’s Edge who knit blankets, sweaters and hats for newborns.

Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Ron Hayes
 
    After her husband, Nathan, died at Hospice By The Sea in 1994, Mildred Strom was composed enough to realize she needed to find something new to do. Something to get her out of the house. Something to help her heal.
    And so she returned to Hospice By The Sea, as a volunteer.
    Four years later, she volunteered at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.
    And then, almost four years ago, she and about 10 neighbors at Harbour’s Edge in Delray Beach started knitting sweaters, blankets and hats and sending them to newborns in hospitals throughout the United States.
    “I know it’s a cliché that when you volunteer you get more than you give,” she says, “but it’s true. You’ve got to keep busy so you’re not sitting home thinking about your aches and pains. And sad to say, that’s what a lot of people do.”
    In the decades since she walked back into the hospice as a new widow hoping to volunteer, Strom has tallied nearly 8,000 volunteer hours;  and in April, the Boca Raton hospital’s Debbie-Rand Memorial Service League named her its Volunteer of the Year.
    “She’s fantastic,” says Aimee Yahn-Carmichael, the hospital’s director of volunteer services. “Dedicated, loyal, dependable, hardworking and willing to take on any new challenge.”
    The honor is not offered lightly or easily earned. About 700 of Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s 1,000 volunteers are active each week in more than 70 areas of the hospital. From those 700, a Volunteer of the Month is chosen, and from those 12 honorees, an annual Volunteer of the Year is named at the April luncheon.
    “You need to be serious and look at it the same as you would a job,” says Strom. “You have to take the work seriously. We have some who goof off, and they’re asked to leave.”
    Raised in Belrose, Long Island, Strom brought along a lifetime of work experience at Manhattan’s broadcast advertising agencies when she and her husband retired to Boca Raton in 1989. The skills she was paid for up North she now gives away as a volunteer.
    During her 16 years with the Debbie-Rand Service League, she’s worked in the director’s office, served on the board of trustees, the lobby sales committee and the ways and means committee.
She resigned last year as membership chairman after nine years.
    And then every Thursday morning, she and her friends in “Stitches From The Heart” spend two hours in a meeting room at Harbour’s Edge, knitting baby clothes.
    “I’ll be 88 in June,” she says “and I’m one of the babies here. Some of the women can do a sweater in a day. I can do a hat in two days. But it’s healthy to stay active and you make lifelong friends, so I’ll volunteer as long as my family doesn’t take my car away.”
    And when she’s not volunteering?
    Strom laughs.
    “I sleep! And I read and — oh! — I also help in our Harbour’s Edge library, taking minutes at the committee meeting and helping catalog the new books.”

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