Volunteer Nearing 45 Years of Service at Denver Health
As the large Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) door slowly opens, 80-something-year-old Annabelle Nelson casually waltzes through with a lively smirk, happily watching children bounce into the waiting room. Under her layers of sweaters, and floral printed scarf, she’s wearing her red Denver Health volunteer vest — a bright and distinguished color she’s been proudly sporting for almost 45 years.
By now, Nelson knows her way around the pavilions at Denver Health, and escorting patients to their rooms is something she’s been doing since the early 1970s.
“I started here back when none of this was even here,” Nelson said. “I was a telephone operator and worked in the evenings, so I came here to help out some in the mornings.”
With a deep love for kids, she first started volunteering at Children’s Hospital. After spending too much time away from patients working in the cafeteria, she left and began volunteering at Denver Health. She now takes a shuttle from her home in Lakewood every Monday to work with patients at Denver Health for four to five hours.
“I told them, ‘look, I’m not a filing person’ — that’s just not my cup of tea,” she said. “They told me, ‘well we can put you in a waiting room where you can talk to people and help them,’ and the rest was history.”
Nelson’s biggest joy is working with people. She said the main reason she’s always wanted to do right by others is her faith.
“I’ve learned to take care of people for a living,” Nelson said. “I’ve met so many volunteers and patients that I like, and we all work together to make things better.”
Denver Health volunteer coordinator Shaikha Rasmussen, who’s been working closely with Nelson for four years, said she is an incredibly loyal volunteer.
“She has been here to see the hospital expand into the authority and what it is today,” Rasmussen said.
“Her dedication to providing excellent service and enhancing the patient experience is unmatched and I am proud to have her still wanting to donate her time to us.”
On the SICU floor, Nelson has put in the time getting to know staff at Denver Health. One of her absolute favorites is clerical support specialist, Luz Herbert.
“Luz takes care of me,” she said. “You know when I was sick last, she came to my home and brought me a milkshake?”
Their relationship has grown over the last seven years and Herbert said even if Nelson is sick herself, and admitted to a hospital, that she’s persistent on trying to get back as soon as possible to help patients again.
“Annabelle has a great memory and is a good listener,” Herbert said. “She always takes the time to ask about your family and has a very caring heart instead of just completing her volunteer hours and going home.”
It was never about hours for her, but if we were counting, she’s logged more than 4,000 hours according to Debra Salazar in volunteer services.