Tahlequah Daily Press


July 10, 2012

For Meigs, volunteering a spiritual exercise

TAHLEQUAH — For Tahlequah City Hospital Auxiliary member Merle Meigs, volunteering is an exercise in spirituality.

“Volunteering is my spiritual gift of service; since I was a child, I’ve tried to help people,” she said.

Meigs said those who are considering volunteering might want to visit the different nonprofit agencies and see if they like the area, the work and the people.

“Not everybody might be comfortable in the [TCH] gift shop, but might like the surgery waiting area,” she said. “God gives you different spiritual gifts. When you see a need, that might be God telling you to help out.”

Volunteers provide services organizations often couldn’t offer without them. At TCH, the volunteers staff the gift shop, offer support in the surgery waiting area, and keep the downtown Remarkables resale store running.

Meigs started volunteering in 1976 as a charter TCH Auxiliary Services member.

“[We started] with the little store downtown,” she said. “It’s all we had in the beginning.”

Monday, she was in the gift shop, where she donates one day a week of her time, even when that day is her 74th birthday. On Fridays, she works the TCH information desk, answering the phone, assisting visitors, delivering mail and running errands.

“Service is a God-given gift of mine,” Meigs said. “That’s what I told them when I was Volunteer of the Year a couple of years ago. I enjoy being out and helping people.”

Profits from the gift shop and Remarkables go into one account and are used to help the hospital.

“I’m a people person, and I enjoy meeting people and being there for them,” Meigs said. “Everything we make goes into the program to provide equipment and scholarships. We’ve bought many, many wheelchairs and other equipment.”

Volunteers can work in the surgery waiting area to meet and greet patients’ families.

“We answer questions and phone calls,” she said. “At the Information Desk, we deliver cards, flowers and newspapers; we run errands and do what’s needed. We do so much legwork for people, they don’t have to hire other employees to do our work.”

About 50 people are listed on the volunteer roster, but most work four hours one day a week. In the gift shop, 10 people volunteer, working one at a time from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or 1 to 4 p.m. At Remarkables, about three people volunteer daily because they have so many donations to go through and inventory to stock.

Volunteering fulfills a need to help people and is a type of ministry, Meigs said.

Helping others doesn’t have to be a huge project; it can be as seemingly insignificant as offering a stuffed toy. Providing clean, gently used toys for children is another need Meigs noticed.

“I wash and dry them like clothes, to give to outpatient kids or kids who are crying,” she said. “I saw a woman with a crying child in the parking lot when I got to work, and I asked if I could give her a stuffed animal and the mom said, ‘Of course.’ So, I got two stuffed animals and gave them to the little girl, she hugged one in each arm and stopped crying.”

Meigs, a retired teacher, has always loved kids, and as a child, she would line up her dolls and teach them.

“Our generation was the first to go to college, and all I wanted to do was teach,” she said.

She taught in Tulsa, Independence, Mo., and Woodall.

“When I run into former students, they tell me I was strict but fun, and often they tell me I was their favorite teacher,” she said. “I put my first husband, Dr. Donald Worth, through college in Kansas City. When he got sick, our daughter, Dr. Donna Schneider, was able to take over his practice.”

Steve Worth and Dana Miller are their other children, and she enjoys her 10 grandchildren.

A member of Park Hill Baptist, Meigs volunteers weekly there, too, preparing packages to send to soldiers monthly.

“I help with the HUGS program, sending toiletries or snack packages to our troops,” she said. “About three years ago, we were sending about 20 packages every week or two, to Iraq and Afghanistan, places without a PX. We’re sending fewer boxes now. We send them to everyone. It doesn’t make a difference who they are; we want to be there for them, especially on the holidays.”

She also volunteers with Hands of Grace ministry through her church.

“People have to qualify through Zoë Institute, then they can shop at Hands of Grace,” said Meigs. “We provide clothing, food, and when it’s available, furniture,” she said.

Along with stuffed animals, she also carries Bibles in her car to share when there’s a need.

“My husband, Cooie Meigs, is a Gideon, and I’m an auxiliary member. We give Bibles to anyone who needs them, and we try to keep them in hotels, motels and hospital rooms,” Meigs said.

Volunteering makes Meigs happy, and she believes happiness is important to people.

“Happiness comes from within. There’s a lot of people with bitterness and unforgiveness, but happiness is a choice,” she said. “Unforgiveness makes you sick inside; it’s important to forgive. I had to learn to forgive, and others can, too.”

Things happen for a reason, she said.

“If it’s not meant to be, God won’t let it happen; it’s like I told my daughter when she applied for a position she didn’t get. Then her dad got sick and she took over his practice,” Meigs said.

Influencing her grandchildren with joy is a priority for Meigs.

“I always write joy in capital letters on their cards and remind them it’s for Jesus, others and yourself,” she said. “If you put Jesus first, then others, then yourself, you’ll have joy because your priorities are right. Your life has to be your testimony.”

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