By Martha Nodar
Some say life begins at 40, but for some Atlantans, it may be 90 — or older.
Anna Wolff, soon to be 103 next month, is a celebrity at Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs, where she has been volunteering since she was 85. Within a limited capacity, Wolff remains an active member of the hospital’s auxiliary, a division that oversees volunteers and fundraising through its gift shop.
Wolff said it is the sense of companionship she derives from her volunteer duties that keeps her going. Although most recently she has been answering the phones in the reception area, she has also held various volunteer duties in the past, such as doing receivables in the accounting department, as well as escorting discharged patients.
“I like doing escort service very much,” she said. “I love the feeling of going home from the hospital.”
Wolff was recently at the receiving end when she was admitted to Northside for three days.
“There was a parade of volunteers coming to see me,” she said. “It was a wonderful feeling to know they think that much of me. There were flowers and balloons everywhere.”
Wolff said she plans to return to her regular volunteer duties as soon as she can.
“Anna is incredible,” said Gordon Jones, the auxiliary’s first male president. “She is bright, caring, and has a great sense of humor.”
Originally from St. Louis, Mo., Wolff said that when she is at home, she enjoys playing songs with her grandson who is an accomplished Atlanta pianist.
“It is fun trying to remember the title of songs from the 1920s,” she said. “Sometimes I recall the titles quicker than my grandson. My favorite tunes are Broadway scores, such as ‘Tea for Two,’ and ‘It Had to be You.’”
Carol Kratochvil, a former auxiliary volunteer and now the manager of volunteer services, praises Wolff and the rest of the auxiliary for playing a vital role in the hospital’s operations since its beginnings in 1970.
In commemoration of the hospital’s 40th anniversary this fall, its auxiliary donated $750,000, one of its largest donations, toward the purchase of a nonsurgical cardiac intervention equipment. This equipment facilitates less invasive procedures for what is commonly known as coronary angioplasty.
In addition to raising funds through its gift shop, the auxiliary’s volunteers also assist in taking baby pictures, helping the chaplain, providing information and puppetry.
Sandy Springs resident Shirley Miller, 92, said she has been volunteering with Northside’s auxiliary for 22 years, serving as a puppeteer during the last five of her tenure. Miller said she and four of her fellow volunteers drive a hospital van once a week and take their educational show, called “Dr. Northside,” to public and parochial schools in the area.
Miller said she does two shows. One is to explain the use of medical instruments to small children in an effort to mitigate their fears about medical procedures and visits to the hospital. The other show is to teach older children about the problems associated with drug abuse.
“I enjoy the children and the company of my fellow volunteers,” Miller said. “I love the companionship.”
Miller said she stays healthy by exercising, especially walking.
Anna Henderson, a clinical exercise physiologist in Sandy Springs, said she is not surprised to see both Miller and Wolff leading active lives.
“The common thread among people over 90 is daily physical activity, good nutrition, and cognitive stimulation,” she said. “Exercise connects us physically, socially, cognitively, and emotionally to ourselves and others.”
For more information, visit: http://www.northside.com/community/volunteers.aspx.