Making an Impact: Volunteers

Age is just a number for Dora Thomas. At 86, she is a part-time cashier at CVS/pharmacy in La Plata, MD, and a part-time gift shop volunteer at Civista Medical Center, part of the University of Maryland Medical System.

For the past 12 years, this mom of six, grandma to nine and great-grandma to 13, has worked and volunteered to stay busy. “I didn’t know anyone when I moved to this area from West Virginia 12 years ago, so I wanted to work and volunteer,” says Dora, who works one day a week at CVS/pharmacy. “When I went into the local CVS, the manager asked if she could help me.  I said I was looking for a part-time job. That was a Tuesday, and they hired me on Thursday.”

Ten minutes away on the same street is the hospital where Dora volunteers. “I’ve always liked to work with older people. Sometimes older people come into the hospital by themselves, and they like having someone to talk to,” she says. “We have 84 volunteers, so it’s like having 84 friends. In our small gift shop I sell balloons, arrange cards, deliver flowers, set up displays and do anything to make visitors and patients comfortable and happy.”

Dora felt deeply enough about the hospital and her volunteer work to apply for a CVS Caremark Volunteer Challenge Grant, a program offered to CVS Caremark colleagues who regularly volunteer at nonprofit organizations, and received a $1,000 grant that supported the purchase of a wheelchair for bariatric patients. 

Dora is an inspiration to all the volunteers. “She greets customers with a smile and makes each person feel special,” says Tom Saxton, President of the Civista Health Auxiliary.

Dora says she’s perfectly happy at the hospital and will continue volunteering as long as she can. Without taxis or buses in La Plata, she relies on a fellow volunteer to pick her up every Tuesday to bring her to the hospital, and her retired son drives her to work. “People at the hospital say, ‘Hey, didn’t I see you working at CVS?’ They ask me what’s on sale. So, I bring the sales ads to the hospital.”

Dora is a living example of how you can make an impact at any age through the act of volunteerism.