Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Volunteer keeps giving in retirement

By Janet Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

Barbara Ford is a former French literature teacher with a doctorate in her field, but lately she spends most of her time practicing her other profession - hugging.

Mrs. Ford, known to most people as Bobbi, practices her hugs regularly at StarShine Hospice of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, the wards at Children's, and Hospice of Cincinnati, where she volunteers each week.

"Just a hug can mean so much," said Mrs. Ford, of Walnut Hills. "I like to think of myself as a big hugger, with kids or older adults. A loving touch is so important."

That's especially true when dealing with terminal illness, something she's been doing regularly for nearly a decade at Hospice of Cincinnati, Blue Ash. She is a spiritual care volunteer in the inpatient unit, and is trained in healing touch. Each Saturday she's there to help the nurses and work to meet the emotional and physical needs of the patients and families. Some days it may mean just holding their hands, listening, and shedding a few tears with them.

"There's just something about knowing someone is there to care, to listen. It's just a joy to be able to help in any way," Mrs. Ford said.

For the past two years, she has also been a regular at StarShine, which provides medical care, pain and symptom management, spiritual and psycho-social support, massage therapy, a social worker, child-life experts to help with the child and the siblings and a chaplain - "coming from a holistic angle," she said.

Mrs. Ford was just 16 when she first volunteered at Children's. Later, when her oldest child's life was saved there, she wanted to help even more.

She's also been on the board of the Hyde Park Center for Older Adults five years and served on Cincinnati's Bicentennial Commission 1986-88. It evolved into Tallstacks Commission, and she was on that board through 1999. She volunteered years at her children's school.

"I've just never been without some kind of volunteering. It's very important to me, said Mrs. Ford, who said she and her husband, Ashley, call retirement "getting tired all over again."

Lisa Richter Beck, StarShine Director of Home Health Care, said Mrs. Ford "has a very giving heart and has developed a special role here. "She loves children so much, and she wants to make a difference in the lives of terminally ill children and their families."Mrs. Ford said she feels privileged and uplifted to help make a child's final weeks happy, and help their families.

Do you know a Hometown Hero - someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at jjwetzel@siscom.net or fax to 513-755-4150.

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