Hospital Volunteer celebrates 96th Birthday

WARE — Enid Szczepanek celebrated her 96th birthday doing something that was very important to her: she spent the afternoon volunteering in the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Gift shop just as she has done for the past several years.

Born in 1913 in New Zealand, Szczepanek moved to Ware in 1946 with her husband, Edward, also known as Tico, an American serviceman she met during World War II. Harry S. Truman was president, a new Buick Sedan cost $1,300, gas was 17 cents a gallon, and a loaf of bread cost 13 cents. Much has changed since then, but not Enid’s dedication to Baystate Mary Lane. “I had my second child here in April of 1947,” said Szczepanek, and so began a long, meaningful relationship with the hospital.

Szczepanek speaks fondly of the hospital Auxiliary, the group of women with whom she volunteers, which supports and coordinates fund-raising events for the hospital. In addition to helping with many auxiliary events, Szczepanek works in the hospital gift shop with fellow volunteer and good friend Diane Swett. They greet and help visitors as they stop in to browse over the many items for sale, including flowers, candy, balloons, cards, newspapers, and costume jewelry.

Szczepanek and Swett have become great friends through their volunteer work together, commenting that they have become like family to each other. “Working in the gift shop has allowed me to meet people from so many different communities, and I have come to realize just how important this hospital is to so many people,” said Szczepanek. “We are so lucky to have the hospital right here in town. People don’t need to travel a great distance to get wonderful health care or visit a sick friend or family member.”

And the secret to her longevity? “I do believe that attitude has much to do with a long life. I get up every morning and am glad to be alive,” she said. “I look forward to doing the things I love, which include reading, crocheting, and the daily crossword puzzle from the newspaper — and, of course, my favorite, volunteering at the hospital.”

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