Wesley Medical Center recently announced their 2010 Volunteer of the Year during a luncheon to recognize the 110 volunteers who served more than 29,000 hours during the 2009 calendar year.
Joan Harper was chosen as the 2010 Volunteer of the Year. Mrs. Harper began her service at Wesley by attending “Chain Gang” meetings. The "Chain Gang" is of a group of women who knit and sew hats, blankets and booties, bassinet covers, rocking chair pads, pillows for the NICU babies and other patients at the hospital. The originator of the group, Peggy Peddicord, moved out of town after organizing the group. But Joan Harper stepped in to become the new leader of the group, expanding the name to the “Chain Gang, Sew ‘n Sews and Knit Wits.” Under her leadership, the group has expanded to 40 members. They now have monthly Saturday meetings at the hospital where sewing machines and sergers are brought in and the women sew and knit for hours.
Mrs. Harper became a regular Wesley volunteer in November of 2007, and has accumulated 2,386 hours of service to-date.
Joan is not new to volunteer work, having volunteered for the Red Cross for 10 years. She was a coordinator of records and reports and she and her husband were sent on many assignments during their tenure. She served in New York City after September 11th, and she and her husband did several tours of duty on the eastern seaboard, particularly, giving aid after hurricanes. Joan is currently a Sunday School Department Director at Main Street Baptist Church, which is a natural progression from her professional life where she taught elementary school for 17 years, first in Corpus Christie, TX, and, later, in Oak Grove when her husband was transferred to this area.
She handles all the recordkeeping for the “Chain Gang, Sew ‘n Sews, Knit Wits”, by tallying hours and items and keeping up with addresses and news about the members. Some members do their handcraft at home and bring, or send, their work to the hospital. As part of her regular volunteer service, Joan volunteers in the NICU, which gives her insight into the needs of that department.
Last fall, the group decided that it would be helpful to have funds for materials and decided on a handcraft sale for hospital employees, patients and visitors. The group expanded their items to include hats, afghans, scarves, potato bags, gadget bags, shawls, heat/cold therapy rice bags, children’s jumpers, plastic bag holders, hats, blankets, and sweaters. Joan kept the inventory for all the items brought and the prices that were agreed upon, and their efforts raised $1,400.
Joan receives a great deal of help and support from her husband of almost 53 years, James who is also a regular volunteer and works at the hospital’s front lobby desk greeting guests, giving directions and assisting patients and visitors. The couple has two children, Donna and Joe Lee, and three grandchildren, Eric, Kimberly and Timothy. Joan and James are high school classmates and just returned from a Texas trip where they celebrated the Class of ‘55’s 55th Reunion where all 11 of the remaining classmates were present.