"I absolutely melt and die when I see a sick child. So, when a friend gave me a tour of the hospital, I knew I had to work there,'' says Donna Shapiro.
For five years, Mrs. Shapiro has volunteered to the Mt. Washington Pediatric Health System, serving as chairwoman of its annual Phonathon, which she helped initiate in 1988.
''I can't work with the children," she says, because "it breaks my heart. So I do the best I can'' in other areas at the hospital. Mrs. Shapiro also gives much time to helping the homeless and stray animals.
The fifth Phonathon to raise funds is being held on March 30-31 and April 1-2, when volunteers will make telephone calls from the hospital's second-floor offices.
''My co-chairs are Harriet Dubansky and Ruth Kabik, and we need volunteers to make calls from 7 to 9 p.m. on those days. Prior to the calls each day, volunteers will be served a supper at 5:30 p.m. followed by a brief orientation. They may also take a tour of the hospital,'' says Mrs. Shapiro, whose husband, Leroy, owns the Cambridge Iron and Metal Co. They have one son, Neal.
Mt. Washington Pediatric Health Center is a non-profit, private hospital on 23 acres at 1708 W. Rogers Ave. An infant, child or adolescent with a chronic lung disease such as asthma or cystic fibrosis, or a child suffering from arthritis, brain injury, burns, diabetes, renal disease or other chronic illnesses will be tenderly nurtured and rehabilitated in long-term health care programs.
In addition, the hospital operates a 46-bed continuing care program at 730 Ashburton St. for children with birth defects and severe neurological injuries.
Founded in 1922 in an old estate on Falls Road, the center moved in 1930 to its present location where, in 1989, an 84-bed medical center was built.
Besides long-term care, other services include inpatient, outpatient and respite care, which is short-term care to enable families periodic relief, and a home health program of support services.
Mrs. Shapiro cares about the needy as well. She is modest about her time at the hospital and with the street people around her office, where she works with her husband. She cried, she says, on Feb. 14 when one of the street people came to the office with a red valentine for her.
And cats are special to her.
''I would like to see a cat in every office as well as every home,'' she says, cuddling her office cat, Eliza Doolittle, whom she saved from the streets. She believes cats might help brighten many workplaces.
At Mt. Washington Pediatric Health Center, about 400 patients are cared for each year. Most are referred by physicians or social services and many are covered by Medicaid or state medical assistance. Funds to operate the hospital come primarily from donations with some state and federal funds. The center's president is Frank A. Pommett Jr.
Volunteers are needed as part of the Luv-N-Care crew at Ashburton, and in the hospital as pediatric pals and in the child-life department assisting the staff in play rooms. Clerical helpers also are needed.
To volunteer to the Phonathon or other programs, call Monica Marcum, volunteer coordinator, at 578-8600, Ext. 210.
Mrs. Shapiro says she would also like to encourage donations to the hospital. ''We have a list of names of people whom the volunteers will call during the four-day fund-raiser, and anyone who would like to be added to that list should also contact Monica Marcum,'' she says.