Many people take advantage of Valentine’s Day to share the love they have for their significant other. For one local couple, sharing their love for each other and for the community is a year-round affair.
It is said that the secret to a successful marriage can be meeting in the middle, and on the second Sunday of every month, at St. Elizabeth in Edgewood, Tom and Jean Collins do just that.
Married 50 years, they’re volunteers in Pastoral Care at St. Elizabeth, and whenever they take holy communion to Catholic patients, Jean starts on the top floor and works her way down; Tom starts on the bottom and works his way up.
“Last week, we met on three,” Jean said.
On those Sundays, they’ll serve as Eucharistic ministers for mass (St. Elizabeth Edgewood schedules masses weekdays at noon and at 8:30 a.m. on Sundays; they’re televised in-house). On other Sundays, they’re Eucharistic ministers at St. Joseph in Crescent Springs.
How did the Collins get started at St. Elizabeth?
Jean, 72, a retired high school English teacher, initially began volunteering at St. Elizabeth more than 10 years ago. What began as a way to get their son, Peter, involved – Peter, who has special needs, still volunteers in St. Elizabeth Business Health – evolved into an opportunity to serve that both Jean and Tom cherish.
“You’re very appreciated,” Jean said. “Everyone is so appreciative of your time. You feel like you’re needed.”
Tom, 77, came on board after retiring from a career in sales. Now, in addition to his work with Pastoral Care, he spends four hours every Monday behind the desk in the surgery waiting area.
“Just helping people out,” he said. “Everybody you work with here is really nice.”
Jean added: “It’s been a win-win for us in so many ways.”
Do many couples volunteer together like the Collins?
Erin Pittman, volunteer coordinator for St. Elizabeth Healthcare, said about 21 married couples volunteer throughout the system, not all on the same shift. St. Elizabeth had more than 1,250 volunteers working more than 111,000 hours in 2015.
Another couple, Ted and Becky Dealba, enjoy being of service. Becky was a nurse in Northern Kentucky for 20 years prior to volunteering at the information desk at St. Elizabeth Florence.
“I missed the people I worked with and wanted to get back to where my friends were,” Becky said. “I’ve met a lot of different people now and I know the hospital up and down.”
For Tom and Jean Collins, it’s an extension of what they’d likely be doing anyway. “Neither one of us really likes to sit down for a long time,” she said.
Jean still substitute teaches a day or two a week, and tutors after school, and when the weather warms up, Tom will hit the golf course. But what they seem to do most, in the garden or around the house or with some combination of their 13 grandchildren, is spend time together.
“We do everything together, pretty much,” Tom said.
Jean said she always leaves St. Elizabeth grateful for good health. “I’m able to drive away, and so many people are not,” she said. “I thank God that I’m able to do that.”
The psychological benefits of volunteering are well-documented, and spending time with the one you love is unmatched. But for Tom and Jean Collins, giving time pays off in yet one more way.
“Every year, you get a free flu shot,” Jean said. “That’s a nice little perk.”