OKEECHOBEE — Recently, I received a call from someone who wanted to nominate a volunteer from Raulerson Hospital for the Inspiring Okeechobee series. She didn’t want the person she was nominating to know who she was, but she told me this person, Arlene Lester-Baker, was one of the hardest workers she had ever met in her life. She said she was there before all the other volunteers and stayed long after the others went home. She said Ms. Lester-Baker loved her job and the patients and went above and beyond in everything she did. Well, of course, I had to look into Ms. Lester-Baker. She sounded wonderful.
It turns out, Ms. Lester-Baker has 16,500 volunteer hours with the hospital, the second highest on record. Born and raised in New York, she did not arrive in Florida until 1974 when she moved to Palm Beach County, and then seeking a less hectic community, she moved to Okeechobee in 1999. She began volunteering at Raulerson Hospital in June of 2012, and in 2013, was elected president of the auxiliary. In 2014, she received the first Humanitarian of the Year award.
She volunteers because she has a drive to be helpful. One of her biggest joys is seeing patients improve as a result of their outpatient services and physical therapy. She finds it extremely rewarding.
Ms. Lester-Baker helps recruit new volunteers and orients them. She answers the phone at the information desk in the lobby, greets patients and visitors, transports patients, escorts visitors and even works in specific hospital departments.
Raulerson Hospital CEO said, “Arlene is very committed to her service in the auxiliary and Raulerson Hospital. She is an advocate and our community is fortunate to have someone who cares the way she does.”
Susan Oleneack said, “Arlene is a great asset to everyone. She is great with the volunteers. We go home, and she is still here. We come in, and she is already here. She helps everyone who needs help. She is just amazing.”
Sue Huddle said,” Arlene is very dedicated. She works every day she can. She is our president and keeps the group a constant unit. She has a great relationship with the hospital staff too.”
Jack Hanus said, “She’s a sweetheart — very devoted — practically lives here.”
Terri Peete said, “She is very dedicated. She’s a role model. I’m a sad puppy when she’s not here. It’s more than friendship. It’s family.”
Ms. Lester-Baker says she feels like her family has expanded considerably since beginning her volunteer work at Raulerson Hospital. She appreciates the friendships she has with staff, patients and visitors.
Volunteering is a way of life for her and didn’t begin when she moved to Okeechobee. When she lived in New York, she volunteered with the school board and her church, and in Palm Beach County, she volunteered for several non-profits. She does not volunteer anywhere else in Okeechobee because she puts in more than 40 hours each week at Raulerson Hospital.
When she is not busy with volunteer work, she enjoys working with stained glass, painting, knitting and crocheting. She has three children — two boys and one girl — eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.