60 years and counting: Lee Memorial volunteer paid in ‘gratitude’

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FORT MYERS, Fla.- For 60 years, Christie Knudsen has been donating her time and energy at Lee Memorial Health System to make a difference.

“I get paid in thanks and gratitude,” said the 91-year-old.

From greeting guests to simple office work, she’s made a career out of volunteering.

After moving to Southwest Florida in her late 20s, Knudsen just wanted to give back. She began by volunteering at Lee Memorial in the 1950s by helping patients quench their thirst.

“We just had a little cart and we went around to the patients and we asked them if they would like some juice or coffee to drink.”

Knudsen added, “that 30-year-old woman never thought 60 years later… I certainly did not.”

Today you can find Knudsen at the blood center, signing guests in and taking care of tasks around the office.

“I do really much think of her as a family,” said Wendy Bovard who has been working alongside Knudsen for five years. “One of the main things is customer service and she’s wonderful at it.”

More the 4,000 volunteers with the health system work roughly 90 different positions on a daily basis, from popping popcorn, to driving you to your car.

To put into perspective how much work the volunteers complete, if they all received paychecks, health officials say it would amount to more than $10 million annually.

“It’s a priceless gift they give to us. They don’t have to be here and there is no way to really value that service,” said Jill Palmer, director of volunteer resources. After six decades and counting, Palmer says “there’s really nobody to compare to Christie.”




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