She came to rock the babies, but she found her calling in the hospital library



Gates Web

Mary Gates works with patients, families and team members as a volunteer in the Riley library.

Mary Gates spent 46 years working in customer service and information technology. Now she borrows from both of those fields to volunteer in the library at Riley Hospital for Children. Like a lot of incoming volunteers, she wanted to rock the babies in the NICU, but she first had to spend at least six months in another volunteer position before getting a plum assignment as a baby cuddler. There was an opening in the library, and she loves to read, so she took it.

What do you like about your volunteer role? “I like being around books and people. I feel I’m doing a service because it is the one place where parents and kids can get away and feel some normalcy within the hospital. It’s just like a regular library – I like that.”

Gates will always remember the parents who came in one day looking for a children’s book with the theme of loss. It hit hard. “They had lost a child that same day,” she said. “I was able to help them find books for their surviving child. It made me feel good that we were able to help in some tiny way that day.”

Family: Husband, Ron, and two grown children. (She doesn’t have grandchildren, she said, so she has more time to volunteer.)

How else do you like to keep busy? She works another volunteer job on Tuesdays, doing Christian ministry at a retirement center. She likes to read, walk her dog and travel. She just returned from a cruise to Grand Turk Island.

Anything people might be surprised to know about you? “My little sister and I want to go on the Queen Mary and do a trans-Atlantic ocean voyage in the next couple years.”

After 1 ½ years in the library, Gates still hasn’t made it up to rock the babies, but she’s happy where she is. “I’m using my time for something good.”

Things to know about volunteering at Riley: Before beginning a position, volunteers go through interviews, a health assessment, background check and orientation. Shifts vary depending on the service area. The greatest need for volunteers is Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 to 5 p.m. Volunteers are asked to commit to one shift per week that is typically three to four hours. Learn more here.

Know a team member or volunteer who deserves a shout out here? Email with the person’s name, job and hospital location, and I’ll do the rest.

– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist