Staying busy is a part of Lee Sealander’s character. Growing up on a potato farm in northern Maine taught the 83-year-old the value of hard work. That work ethic carried into his business and family; he owned his own automotive shop for 30 years, and keeps busy with his wife, five children, 18 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
After retiring in 1990, however, Sealander found himself with too much time on his hands. A friend suggested he volunteer at nearby USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, only 2 miles from his La Crescenta, CA, home. Since then, he has been a regular fixture in his role as a hospital volunteer three mornings a week, dedicating more than 30,000 hours to the hospital over the past 22 years.
Doing What’s Needed
Sealander remembers his initial meeting with the director of volunteers. “I met with her in the spring of 1991, and said that I might be interested in volunteering that fall. She smiled and said, ‘Be here at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning,’” he said, with a laugh. “And I was — I’ve been volunteering at USC Verdugo Hills ever since.”
Initially, USC–VHH needed men to help push wheelchairs and move beds. From there, when Sealander found a job that needed to be done, he simply added it to his daily routine.
“I make coffee in the volunteer office and waiting room, then pick up surgery scheduling sheets and newspapers, and deliver those to the desk,” he says. “After that, I work on the front desk on the fourth floor for an hour and deliver the hospital census to different desks. During the rest of my time, I return and repair the wheelchairs to each department and pick up supplies for the volunteer office.”
If that weren’t enough, Sealander also acts as an escort and host, escorting patients to different departments in the hospital, and assists at special events such as golf tournaments. Typically, he volunteers between five and six hours per day.
For Sealander, volunteering is a way to be useful and productive. “I enjoy being busy, and these jobs need to be done,” he explained. “If I don’t put the wheelchairs back where they belong, they won’t be where they’re needed. I see things that need to be done, and I take them on.”
It’s also a way to be connected to the community. “I get to know a lot of people in the neighborhood,” he said. “Just to be able to stop by and say hello and offer comfort to someone who’s sick is comforting for them and me. If it weren’t for volunteers, the hospital wouldn’t be able to operate the way it does today.
“Plus,” he added, “I think if I had a day where I didn’t have anything to do, I’d go crazy.”