By MIKE HUGHES, Prime Times
MARTINS FERRY — If you’ve entered the gift shop at East Ohio Regional Hospital anytime during the past 13 years, you’ve likely noticed the warm smile emanating from Shirley Conaway.
Conaway has been at her post, twice a week for more than a decade, volunteering her time and services to EORH.
In a facility that houses doctors and nurses, the contributions of a volunteer gift shop attendee might not seem that important.
But a few honest words of praise from the facilities director of marketing and public relations quickly point out, that is not the case with Conaway.
‘‘I honestly don’t know what we’d do without her,’’ Espina said. ‘‘She’s just an absolute blessing to us. I can think of no one who does more than she does.’’
Conaway’s contributions to EORH extend far beyond ringing up sales and bagging purchases.
She performs the duties of your average, paid clerk. She’s checks supply amounts, places orders and ensures the gift shot is properly ready to go every day.
She also receives the mail for patients and helps deliver it to those in the long-term care wing.
She stops and talks, offers kind words to those who might not experience the luxury of having frequent visitors.
‘‘A lot of their families may not be in the area and they don’t receive visitors that often,’’ she said.
‘‘They look forward to seeing you.
‘‘I love doing it because it gives me a chance to interact with people.
‘‘I’ve met a lot of good people and a lot of good friends here.’’
And she does it for free.
Not out of the desire for a paycheck or to move up the company ladder, but to stay involved, to do her part and give back.
‘‘I was a housewife,’’ Conaway said. ‘‘I have five children and when they moved out, there wasn’t anything to do.
‘‘The kids were all gone and I needed to do something and this allowed me to do that as well as give back to the community.’’
She’s not the only member of her family working at the hospital either.
He daughter Velvet has been working the switchboard for nearly 20 years.
Shirley has 15 grandchildren and one of her earliest memories of working at the gift shop involved her bringing her young grandson with her to work.
That grandson, now a 13-year old growing boy, also volunteers at East Ohio. It was at her suggestion that he get involved with volunteer work.
Shirley mans her post twice a week. She’d like to do more.
But for a woman who is a mother to five, grandmother to 15 and great-grandmother of eight, her schedule seldom has an opening.
‘‘I’d like to do more, but you can only do what you can do,’’ she said.
Three times a week she accompanies her husband to work out in the cardio rehabilitation department, coming in early for her Monday shift to ensure she can accomplish both.
Conaway, who grew up in Wheeling, is a Martins Ferry resident.
She and her husband moved to town after spending a few decades living near Mt. Pleasant.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Conaway, left, a volunteer in the East Ohio Regional Hospital Gift Shop, is seen with Kelly Bettem, right, director of volunteers at East Ohio Regional Hospital.