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UCLA retirees return as volunteers

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Eilish Hathaway
Eilish Hathaway is part of the volunteer team that brings the Kindness Cart to hospital staff. (Photo by Denise Rick)
By Sandy Cohen

UCLA Newsroom

Imagine loving your workplace so much that even after the paychecks stop, you continue coming in.

That’s the case for several of UCLA Health’s 3,000 volunteers, who spent decades working at the university or in the health system and, after retirement, decided to offer their time for free. 

“We are so fortunate and appreciative to have UCLA Health retirees on our volunteer team,” says Carey McCarthy, MPH, director of volunteer services for UCLA Health. “The knowledge, familiarity and history they have with the institution make them ideal volunteers.”

A feeling of home

Even before she wrapped up her 35-year career with UCLA, Eilish Hathaway had plans to volunteer with UCLA Health.

“Literally the week I was retiring, I walked into the volunteer office,” Hathaway says. She ran into a friend there who signed her up.

That was 20 years ago. Since then, Hathaway has worked in the Emergency Department and the volunteer office. For the past several years, she’s been part of the team that brings the Kindness Cart from floor to floor providing snacks and other goodies to hospital staff. The program started during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During COVID, the staff was really under a lot of stress, and it took a lot of courage for them to do that they did,” Hathaway says. “So most of us in the volunteer office felt that if we could do any little thing to make them feel a bit better, we wanted to do it. And I have to say, the gratification and the gratitude we get from the employees is quite astonishing.”

Hathaway, who holds an honors degree in chemistry and biochemistry, started working at UCLA Health in 1970 – first in animal research, and later in the UCLA Pulmonary Function Lab. She also worked in the Department of Medicine and at the mathematics institute on campus.

Her decision to volunteer at UCLA Health was “totally, 100% about giving back.”

“I have gotten so much from UCLA – so many different jobs, promotions, health care,” she says. “Even before I retired, I knew I would want to volunteer. It just seemed the right thing to do.”

Hathaway loves the people she works with and lauds the dedication of her fellow volunteers. Knowing she’s heading to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center every Thursday provides structure to her week, she says.

“I literally get, I won’t say goosebumps, but just a feeling of being home when I pull into the parking lot and walk into the building,” she says.

Continuing to give back

Andee Korn
Volunteer Andee Korn shares her IT skills with the UCLA Health Auxiliary. (Photo by Denise Rick)

Andee Korn earned her bachelor’s degree at UCLA, followed by an executive management certificate. She met her husband at the university. Their kids graduated from UCLA. And she worked in Information Technology on campus for 28 years.

After she retired in 2010, she wanted to find a way to continue her affiliation with the institution.

“I was so strongly attached to driving those awful miles here,” jokes the Tarzana resident.

Through a UCLA retirees’ group, Korn learned about volunteer opportunities at UCLA Health. She’s been helping out at the hospital since 2011, staffing the information desk and supporting the volunteer office with various computer duties.

“My natural aptitude is more in IT,” she says.

Korn also lends her IT skills to the UCLA Health Auxiliary, a nonprofit group of volunteers who support hospital programs and patient needs with profits raised through the gift shops at UCLA Health hospitals in Westwood and Santa Monica and its thrift store in Los Angeles. 

“I really missed having the structure of working and coming into an office every day,” she says. “So the volunteering, once I got into it, gave me that to start. It’s a good way to socialize with your peers and meet some lovely people, as well as feeling like you’re helping a little bit.” 

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