Tempe woman concludes 50+ years of volunteerism at Banner Gateway

GILBERT, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- Not many people stay on the job for nearly 60 years, let alone volunteer that long at the same place. but a longtime volunteer at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert has been helping visitors with a smile for 57 years.

On Monday, Ruth Wootten is finishing up her very last shift at Banner, but Wootten didn't know the hospital staff had a little surprise for her, filled with balloons, cake, and lots and lots of hugs.

Wootten has been volunteering since 1962, back when the Banner Mesa Medical Center was called Mesa Lutheran Hospital.

"Hospital was a collection of shacks stuck together," said Wootten. "When my husband came to visit, they couldn't find me. It was an experience, not very reassuring."

Since then, she saw the need for volunteers, and had the extra time as a stay-at-home mom, so she decided to take action by cleaning bathrooms, making beds, and doing the laundry.

"Who hath much, much shall be expected," said Wootten. "I'm a person of faith, and believe that I do need to care for all others."

So, Wootten took action for more than 50 years, most recently working at the information desk. Her family came out on her last day to cheer her on, saying she has been a great role model.

"As examples, my parents were always involved in their community," said Wootten's son, Jon. "So we walked away as adults to give back and be involved in the community as well."

The Director of Volunteer Services for Banner said they rely on more than 400 volunteers.

"Oh my goodness, we truly could not operate our facilities without volunteers. We count on them immensely for so many things that enable our employees to focus on direct patient care," said Kathy Williams.

Wootten said she decided to end her long volunteer run at Banner because she can't drive anymore, but will continue to volunteer for organizations closer to her home in Tempe. Despite turning 91 soon, she says her days of giving back will still go on.