Ruth Jacobson, 78, is a bit of a celebrity at M Health Fairview Ridges Hospital.
She’s often the first stop for therapy dogs making rounds, because they know she’ll always share some treats. And she can’t walk down a hallway without someone smiling, waving, and shouting, “Hi, Ruthie!”
All of this comes with the territory when you’ve spent as much time in the hospital as Jacobson.
More than 20,000 hours over 14 years, to be exact.
“Knowing I’ve dedicated this much time to volunteering makes me very proud,” Jacobson said. “I don’t want to stop. I think volunteering here was the best decision I made in my life.”
Jacobson, a longtime Burnsville resident who now resides in Apple Valley, began volunteering at Ridges as a new way to make a difference in her community. At the time, she had no idea how important her work would become to the hospital community – and to herself.
“We would not be able to survive without Ruth; her work is truly invaluable,” said Donna Blaul, the nurse manager of the medical cardiac unit where Jacobson spends much of her volunteer time stocking items, assembling patient education packets, and much more. “Her work allows us to give more to our patients, especially time.”
In many ways, Jacobson is also the emotional heart of the medical cardiac unit.
“One of my favorite things about volunteering is giving hugs,” Jacobson said. “Walking down the hallway, you never know what someone is going through, and sometimes they just need a hug and to know someone is there.”
Jacobson still volunteers for 30 hours a week at the hospital. During her extensive tenure, she’s created countless memories for others. For herself, one experience stands out as especially rewarding.
“My youngest grandson was born at Ridges, and because I help with transport, I was able to discharge him,” Jacobson said. “I got to wheel my daughter and grandson to the car, and help them get into the car – and since I’m the grandma, I even took a picture of them when they were leaving!”
While these memories enhance Jacobson’s volunteering experience, she jokingly offers a side benefit of volunteering.
“It keeps me out of the stores,” she laughed.