Barbara Collins has put in 39,168 hours of volunteer service at Baptist Hospital over the last 50 years -- and at 82 years old, she's still going strong.
“I come in about a quarter to six in the morning and then I head out about 12:30,” she says of her Tuesday-Thursday routine, which finds her tirelessly walking the hospital's halls. “I’d like to get one of those pedometers to see how far.”
Technically, Collins was volunteering at Baptist before the hospital was even built. During its initial fundraising phase, she cold cement blocks for one dollar each.
Those blocks are now part of the building.
But the 'official' tally on her service is impressive enough: she's been volunteering since September 19, 1691, a year after the hospital first opened.
Tuesday, her contagious laugh spread around the hospital as she was honored for her incredible contribution.
“They’re all grinning. What are they grinning about?” she asked a co-worker.
"You!" came the answer. "Celebrating, of course.”
With two of her children at her side, Collins was present as Baptist CEO Bo Boulanger announced a lasting tribute in her honor: the volunteer department will now officially be known as the Barbara Collins Volunteer Service Department.
Others at the hospital were constantly stopping Collins in the hallway to take a picture or give her a hug.
“She’s one of the most caring, compassionate, giving individuals that I know and has such a zest for life and a wonderful sense of humor,” said Olga Manrique, who as director of social work and care management has known Collins for thirty years.
Collins recruited her husband to join her as a volunteer when he retired. When he died four years ago, she credited her extended family at Baptist for helping her cope with the loss.
“You just feel like a giant. I do when I walk out, that I’ve done something constructive,” she said. “If I can get one person to smile, no matter what antics I have to pull, it has been worthwhile.”
And how many more hours will she log?
“Let me just live to be 90," she said, "and maybe you all wil let me sneak out and go home.”