Don’t let Ethel Isberg fool you. Though illness has left her bent over and frail-looking, this 89-year-old Tillamook, Oregon, native is full of life, lighting up a room with her bright blue eyes and shy smile. She also has brightened the lives of more than 500 families in the coastal Oregon town.
With colorful yarn and nimble fingers, Ethel crafts custom pink or blue caps for the newborns at Tillamook County General Hospital. But it’s not only the expert knitting that makes her hats unique—woven into each one is a special blessing. Ethel, who recently knitted her 500th cap, prays over each one.
“Throughout our lives, God places saints in our paths to encourage and inspire us. Such was the case when I met Ethel,” says Linda Heyne, TCGH director of volunteers.
Ethel has had her share of challenges, with her past health issues including pancreatic cancer, gallbladder surgery, a broken hip and lymphoma. Still, not even cancer could slow her down as each month she would deliver a bag filled with hats. Even when doctors were not optimistic about her condition, Ethel persevered.
“Strengthened by her faith in God and the prayers of her church, she entered remission in July 2007 and is now cancer-free,” says Linda. “Throughout her tribulations, the production of baby hats continued.”
“She celebrates life in a world where every day is a challenge. She is so positive,” adds Linda, “She’s not afraid of anything, she fully enjoys life.”
Linda, who started work at TCGH as a hospice volunteer coordinator, transitioned to work with Faith in Action, a community-based volunteer program, and then Hospital Volunteers.
“I love it,” she says. “Working with volunteers is a joy because they simply want to be there—they don’t have to be. They show up every week, some having volunteered for more than 25 years."
TCGH enjoys 38 hospital-based volunteers who do many jobs such as operating the gift shop, delivering mail and flowers, running errands, collating admission packets and keeping the flow of the hospital smooth.
Additionally, more than 60 volunteers work with the Faith in Action program to provide services to people in their homes. This program links the hospital with area churches and health/human service agencies to recruit and deploy volunteers around Tillamook County. Volunteers visit, run errands, make meals and do light housekeeping and yard work.
“These volunteers help people remain independent in their homes,” says Linda.
“Volunteers have taught me so much through the years,” she says, "about commitment to serving others.”
To learn more about volunteering at TCGH or any other Adventist Health hospital, visit: www.adventisthealth.org.