POSTED: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 6:05pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 9:09am
Hammond, LA (NBC33) — North Oaks Medical Center has approximately 250 volunteers, a mix of adults and students looking for course credit. But one man does more than just help out - he inspires everyone around him.
Larry Dominguez began volunteering at North Oaks in 1993.
"My wife had started a year ahead of me," he said, "and she enjoyed it so much, so I decided I'd try it."
After 7,000 hours on the job, Dominguez still offers his services at least once a week.
"Mainly, I think it keeps me young," he said. "You stay active, you meet people, make friends."
He also has formed strong bonds with the other regular volunteers, which is important because Dominguez outlived most of his social circle.
"They're all real friendly, real nice," he said. "They're always smiling; they're really nice. And that makes you feel good, you know, being with a nice, friendly group."
While most people his age would depend on the hospital, Dominguez remains in good enough shape to give back. He still drives, and does not need any help getting around the hospital (he estimated he walks two miles during a typical morning of work) or carrying equipment.
"I'm 95 years old, and I don't take no prescription medicine," Dominguez claimed. "None at all, and I feel good."
Part of a volunteer's job is to be a friendly face for patients, whether by bringing them flowers, helping them order from the cafeteria, or wheeling them to the car when they are ready to go home. That interaction is Dominguez' favorite part of the job.
"Make them feel comfortable," he said of his goal. "I don't really make them think I'm somebody that's not in a good mood or something, you know?"
That positive attitude makes a difference, both with the patients and his coworkers.
"Larry is wonderful," said Malissa Gonzalez, the hospital's volunteer services coordinator. "He always has a smile on his face, he is always happy to help in any way, shape, or form."
Being around the patients also reminds Dominguez how lucky he is to still be in such good health.
"Yeah, you meet some friends that has a lot of problems, and it's bad," he said. "Make you stop and wonder, you know? Especially when it's cancer patients. I hate to think or hear of anybody who got cancer."
But even though he would not admit it, he has an even bigger influence on everyone else at the hospital.
"I think he has a lot of impact on the patients, Gonzalez said. "I know he has a lot of impact on me, just because I look at him as a role model."
"No," he replied. "No, I'm just normal."
Aside from his weekly shift, Larry will go in if the hospital is low on volunteers during other days. But he says he has not put in much overtime lately, joking that everyone thinks he needs to slow down.
"Maybe Malissa thinks I'm getting too old, I have to slow down a little bit," he joked.
Click here  for more information about volunteering for North Oaks Medical Center.