Esther Worchel has been volunteering for more than 30 years, since retiring as a high school teacher in 1988. From serving in various capacities at the local hospital, to driving the firetrucks at the local fire station she founded with her husband, the 91-year-old’s commitment to a life of service remains unyielding.
Living in the small town of Slidell, Louisiana, Esther knew that the Ochsner Medical Center was always in need of volunteers. Once she retired, her servant heart became an invaluable addition to the hospital’s labs, the radiology department and the Sunshine gift shop. Esther has given nearly 10,000 volunteer hours to the hospital, and now spends every Friday making popcorn at a fundraiser to raise money for the hospital’s Cooking-up Healthy Options and Portions program.
When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Esther was forced to relocate to Florida for six months. Despite having to move hundreds of miles away from the hospital, Esther continued to volunteer her time and expertise to help the Sunshine gift shop from afar by managing finances and inventory. Even as she struggled to put her home back together from a distance, Esther remained concerned for the welfare of the hospital and its patients.
Some of her favorite memories as a volunteer have been assisting those in need at the Ochsner Medical Center. “I’ve always been a people person, and I love guiding patients and their families in the right direction,” said Esther. “I enjoy meeting people, and when I get to point them in the right direction towards the right people, I know I’ve made a difference.”
The city of New Orleans recognized Esther in 2013, naming her as one of city’s Health Care Heroes for her outstanding community involvement as a volunteer.
Esther also cherishes the time she spent volunteering at Children’s Wish Endowment, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to local children of southwestern Louisiana who experience chronic, life-threatening or terminal illness. She volunteered on the organization’s board of directors for nearly 15 years, and brought sparks of hope into the lives of children and families in need.
She also spent 10 years as a volunteer firefighter for the St. Tammany Parish district one station. She lived in a neighborhood where water wells were the only source of water to put out a fire. After two houses burned down in her community, Esther and her husband saw a need for quicker fire response times and created the area’s volunteer firefighter station.
No matter the volunteer role, Esther is rooted in living a life of service to others, and plans to continue serving those around her in the years to come. “I want people to know that they can do the same,” said Esther. “Reach out and do something for people in need instead of staying still.”
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Esther? Search local volunteer opportunities.