Centenarian's birthday a celebration of giving

Volunteer: Anne Arundel Medical Center throws a party for a woman whose service isn't slowing in old age.

July 15, 2004|By Mary C. Schneidau | Mary C. Schneidau,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel Medical Center threw a party yesterday for one of its most dedicated volunteers, who just happens to be two years younger than the hospital.

Mina Audesirk turned 100 on Saturday. She remains active, knitting baby caps and helping with the Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation's mailings.

"I'm speechless," said Audesirk, her head topped with a sparkling tiara, as she looked out at the room full of friends, including many fellow hospital volunteers. "For me to be speechless is really something."

Her sister, 92-year-old Emma Audesirk, also a hospital volunteer, agreed.

"It's a miracle," she said.

Guests at the party thought the real miracle was Mina Audesirk's dedication to the program, of which she has been an active member since she moved to Annapolis in 1975.

The sisters are two of about 525 volunteers who, as a group, donate 110,000 hours a year to the hospital. The two have spent an estimated 14,000 hours answering telephones, stuffing envelopes and knitting caps for newborns, and they plan to continue. They committed yesterday to helping with the next hospital foundation mailing and said they like creating the baby caps even though it takes about four hours to knit one.

Mina Audesirk said that volunteering seemed the perfect way to spend her time after she retired, and that she was drawn to the medical center because as a child she had dreamed of becoming a nurse.

She was born and raised in Trenton, N.J., and worked there for decades as a secretary. She and Emma never married and decided to move to Annapolis after some of their New Jersey neighbors, native Annapolitans, told them about the city.

"They always have stories about growing up," said Vianne Launius, an assistant at the foundation. "It's interesting to see the world through the eyes of someone who has lived that long."

Kathy Clabby, president of the hospital's auxiliary, said Audesirk always reminds her fellow volunteers about the importance of their work and the group's history. Audesirk is also not afraid to speak up when she dislikes something, such as when volunteers got new jackets three years ago.

"She had a few things to say when we changed the color of our jackets from pink to blue," Clabby said.

What party guests wanted to hear from Audesirk yesterday was the secret to a long and healthy life. Despite her age, she has never been treated at the hospital as a patient. She told guests there is "plenty of time for naps" and advised them to stay busy as she does by volunteering and playing bingo.

"I'm taking it one day at a time," she said. "Every one is a bonus."

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