t an age when a lot of people need care, some area 90-year-olds are actually spending their days taking care of other people.
Altoona Regional Health System has a group of exceptional volunteers -- seven older than 90, and they are making a difference every day.
They are Don Burk, 90, of Altoona, a volunteer for 19 years; Flora "Flo" Evangelisto, 94, of Altoona, who has volunteered for 32 years; Betty Kimmel, 92, of Altoona, a volunteer for 33 years; Josie Moyer, 90, of Gallitzin, a volunteer for 17 years ; Margaretta Perry, 92, of Altoona, a volunteer for 30 years; Victor Raia, 90, of Altoona, a volunteer for 11 years and Charles Smith, 90, of Altoona, a volunteer for 26 years.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Josie Moyer (left) receives some instructions from medical technician Heidi Beecham in the Altoona Regional Health System blood bank at the Altoona Hospital Campus before delivering a unit of blood needed for a patient. Moyer is among the seven volunteers for the health system who are 90 or older.
They push wheelchairs, transport charts, file paperwork, greet visitors, entertain and interact with patients, and do everything needed with enthusiasm.
"We wouldn't be able to function without them," said Debbie McClellan, manager of volunteer services for Altoona Regional Health System.
It's volunteers like Smith who make the hospital tick.
Smith, who turned 90 in July started volunteering 26 years ago and has racked up 22,000 hours, more than any other volunteer among the 600 of all ages who give of their time at the health system's hospitals.
Smith is fondly known as "Charlie the Barber," a nickname he acquired from an earliest career. He started volunteering at the hospital after retiring from Veeder-Root.
"I didn't feel like slopping around and somebody said, 'Why don't you join Senior Companions?'" Smith said.
Senior Companions is a program at Altoona Regional Health System which pairs volunteers with seniors, and Smith has fond memories of the those he helped over the years. Smith has since helped in the dialysis department as well as outpatient services.
As a volunteer, Smith spends four hours a day, five days a week in the hospital.
He helps with office work and talks to patients. Smith's daughter, Jacqueline Smith-Bennett said her father makes patients feel more comfortable, and they often anticipate his visits.
"You talk to the patients. They look for you to come, and they miss you if you don't come," Smith said.
A couple of weeks ago, Smith was off for two days because of his own doctors' visits. When he returned to volunteering, the patients were ecstatic to see him.
"I go back and you think I'd been off forever," Smith said laughing.
"They just love him and he loves them too. I'm just so proud of him. I want everybody to know about him," Smith-Bennett said.
Patients share the same warm feelings about Moyer.
The spunky volunteer often has trouble sleeping, so she heads to the hospital at 2 a.m. to help. After she retired as cafeteria manager for Penn Cambria Middle School in 1995, Moyer decided to volunteer at the hospital.
"I've worked with people all my life, and I just love people," Moyer said.
She helps transport lab work at the outpatient services center, directs family members of patients and interact with patients.
"I make them all laugh because I'm funny. They can't say one bad thing about me," Moyer said.
She also enjoys caring for the plants in the emergency room.
"You ought to see those plants. They weren't like that before I started. They're beautiful," Moyer said. "Everything I do, I enjoy doing."
All the walking on the job is a plus for her. She is constantly on her feet, and that's the way she likes it.
After her mother passed away in 1981, Moyer began walking as a coping mechanism.
"When I don't walk at the hospital, I walk at home," Moyer said. "It just makes me feel better to be helping."
Volunteering keeps Perry busy.
The 92-year-old volunteer began helping at the hospital about 30 years ago. She had been working as a seamstress at Gable's Department Store when the store closed and she lost her job.
"I didn't know what to do with myself," Perry said. "So, I started to volunteer."
Perry was familiar with the hospital because her daughter was a registered nurse, so helping there was an obvious choice.
She works in the pre-anesthesia department, filing and helping with other office-related tasks.
"I do it for me. I think it's something I can look forward to and it keeps me going. It keeps me sharp. For 92 years old, I think I'm doing pretty good," Perry said. "The older you get, the more you want to be useful to somebody."
"It's good to feel useful and have something to do on a regular basis," he said.
"You know what? I even go on days I'm not scheduled to go. I get bored at home," Moyer said. "When God tells me I can't go anymore, I'm going to cry."