Local tapped by governorPublished 6:54pm Monday, April 29, 2013
Highest volunteer award goes to Vidant-Beaufort volunteer
“Trudy Nelson, come down.”
In the main hall of the Executive Mansion, Trudy Nelson, on the arm of one of her sons, went to meet Gov. Pat McCrory. It happened Tuesday, this gathering of men and women who had been singled out by the governor for their exemplary volunteer service; each presented with a Medallion Award, the state’s highest level of volunteer recognition.
Initially, McCrory skipped right over Nelson, to talk about all the other volunteers, but it wasn’t oversight on his part. He was saving her for last. He had a point to make, according to Nelson, and the point was wrapped around nearly 9,000 hours of service Nelson had accumulated over three decades of volunteerism at a time of life when most are slowing down.
Not so Nelson.
At 92 years old, Nelson volunteers every week at Vidant Beaufort Hospital. Her volunteerism extends back to World War II, when she and a friend were recruited to be plane spotters on the California coast. Since, she’s pitched in with Meals on Wheels, the American Red Cross and various other agencies, but in 1984, she found a volunteer home at the local hospital.
McCrory’s objective in singling Nelson out from the 20 people being recognized was this: “He challenged the whole group to not stop just because you reach retirement age — you still have a place to volunteer,” Nelson said.
Nelson didn’t set out to gain this type of recognition — a personalized letter, certificate and medal on red, white and blue ribbon from North Carolina’s highest office. Instead, her career in volunteerism truly began after a close relative’s three-week hospital stay.
“The nurses, the medical treatment, were so wonderful — I felt like I needed to pay the hospital back,” Nelson said.
What she found was camaraderie and purpose amongst people whose paths she may not have crossed otherwise.
“There’s something about being a volunteer, coming from different lifestyles, joining together with a central purpose,” Nelson said. “We all benefit from being volunteers. It’s really rewarding. … It’s a stabilizer in my life. I resent it when I can’t get to my regular shift.”
In earlier decades, Nelson worked five days a week at the hospital. Now, Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon, she can be found manning the phones and directing other volunteers at the hospital. Another day a week, she donates her time and energy to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
But until Nelson stood at the governor’s mansion in such august company, she said she really didn’t think her accomplishment was that noteworthy. Surrounded by 13 people who had spearheaded major volunteer campaigns and six other hospital volunteers selected from across the state, she said McCrory recognized each individually before coming to Nelson.
“It wasn’t until I was there — I realized what company I was in, that I had done my share. I felt the importance of being a volunteer,” Nelson said. “I was humbled. I realized what it was all about.”
It was an emotional realization, an emotional ceremony, she said — one that, for the first time, allowed Nelson to see herself in the larger picture of volunteerism.
While McCrory emphasized Nelson’s age and dedication, naming her a role model for all North Carolinians, for Nelson, she’s just doing what she loves to do, and will continue doing so until circumstances dictate she no longer can.
“I think that anyone who has some free time would benefit from being a volunteer — because you’re needed,” Nelson said.