Missi Gibbs has volunteered at Roosevelt Hospital for so many years, she’s forgotten when she started. “I don’t even know,” she said. “It’s been over 30 years!”
Gibbs, who turns 75 in November, is receiving a Westy award for her volunteer work.
“We are so lucky to have her here with us,” said Kathleen Dalton, director of volunteer services at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals. Dalton, who has known Gibbs for more than seven years, described her as an invaluable member of the hospitals’ volunteer team
“We all have whatever blessings we have, which really aren’t because of us. And so what we can do is give back,” Gibbs said on a recent Saturday in her apartment on West 81st Street. She first started volunteering at Roosevelt after her priest recommended it. “I got the names from the chaplain’s office of people who frequently did not have visitors,” she said.
At that time, hospital stays tended to be longer, Gibbs explained. “If someone had a stroke, they’d stay there for weeks.” After work, she visited patients, keeping them company. “I really, really loved it because I met interesting people,” she said. She later volunteered in the hospital gift shop and served as treasurer for the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Associate Trustees.
Currently, Gibbs volunteers every Friday as an ambulatory surgery liaison, facilitating communication between patients’ families and the medical staff. Then on Mondays she works in the maternity unit helping to escort families after they are discharged.
In addition to volunteering at Roosevelt, she is the chairperson of the beneficiaries committee of St. George’s Society of NY, an organization assisting local elderly and disabled residents who have a British and Commonwealth heritage. She is also a former board member of the Manhattan Plaza Foundation, which sponsored HIV and AIDS support programs.
Born in Pennsylvania, Gibbs grew up outside of Chicago. After attending Sweet Briar College in Virginia for two years, she transferred to Katharine Gibbs in New York when it was a secretarial school. “Back in the days when you wore hats and white gloves,” she said.
After graduation, she returned to Chicago for her first job at Life magazine. “I worked for the merchandizing manager and had lots of fun,” she said. Gibbs later moved back to New York with her husband. “When my feet hit New York, I knew this is where I’m staying forever and ever and ever,” she said. A mother of a son and a daughter, she remained in the city after her divorce.
She is generous with her time as well as her three-bedroom apartment, which she shares with her 23-year-old granddaughter as well as a Romanian pianist she describes as her “adopted” adult son.
“He needed a place to stay and the cats liked him,” she explained. (Gibbs adopted her two cats, Poopster and Sister Susie.) Two of her granddaughter’s friends have also been staying at the apartment temporarily. “I am currently running Granny’s flophouse,” she said.
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