Sitting in her pink scrubs, lanyard ID dangling, the white-haired, bespectacled octogenarian looked down at her lap and knotted her hands.
“There are so many volunteers, so many people who do great things,” Hope Wigglesworth said quietly. “I’m just one of millions.”
If there’s one thing that sums up the Ipswich 87-year-old, it’s her humility. Although Wigglesworth has given countless hours of her time to the community, she hardly wants recognition.
“I’ve done volunteer work for a good part of my life,” she said. “It was ingrained within my family that it was important to give back.”
Most notably, she does so by devoting her Thursdays as a patient ambassador at Beverly Hospital. Since May 2009, she has put in more than 350 hours, slowly pushing a cart through the halls, stopping room by room to offer up magazines, books, and pads and pencils for patients to write thoughts, questions, or medical directions — because, as she pointed out, people rarely remember to bring something to write on, and end up scribbling on napkins. She keeps patients company, too, talking with them about whatever’s on their minds.
“I find that I meet a lot of wonderful people dealing with all kinds of medical issues, showing courage and faith, and a sense of humor at times,” she reflected.
“I can really say, when I leave here on Thursday, that I have gotten more than I have given.”
The mother of four and grandmother of nine, who has lived in Ipswich for more than 60 years, is involved in other facets of the community as well, but was reluctant to mention them, besides her work on the Ipswich Museum’s capital campaign.
“That’s one of the things with people like Hope — they certainly don’t do it for the recognition,” said Jane Karaman, the hospital’s manager of volunteer services. “Somebody that puts the amount of joy and effort into what they do, and so quietly. . . . Hope epitomizes that.”
Patients have described Wigglesworth as “precious,” Karaman said, noting that she always has a smile to offer up to a weary face.
“She has certainly brightened a lot of patients’ days and rooms.”
Wigglesworth’s dedication to volunteering started in college, when she spent a summer in New York City, where she grew up, with Travelers Aid International. It was just after World War II, and she worked with customs officials on the docks, meeting displaced individuals. Some of them had been in camps in Europe, and, as she explained, “came with absolutely nothing.”
Over the years, she also donated her time to high school guidance departments, and at the old Boston City Hospital.
Because her late husband William was a surgeon, she’s always had a “great admiration for all who work in the hospital area.”
So when she retired “around 1990” from a varied career in educational and hospital administration and health career counseling, she made a pact with herself that she would attempt to do three new things each year.
One of those included getting back into hospital volunteering. (Another, recently, has been to learn to use her iPhone.)
Of her devotion to community service, she said simply, “You don’t volunteer unless you care.”Taryn Plumb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.