Whether he’s starring on its softball team, delivering newspapers to its patients or touring children around its floors, Jim Goldsmith is always in there pitching for Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow.
And, as he says, “I wouldn’t trade my last 18 years working for Phelps for anything. The time I have spent with my ‘hands-on’ volunteer activities has given me a real insight into the hospital and the patients it helps to get well.”
As a board member, Goldsmith performs all of the duties pertinent to that role with close attention and due diligence, but it is his “second volunteer hat,” that makes him shine in the eyes of the hospital community, which honored him at the Phelps 30th anniversary Champagne Ball last month at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club.
“Nothing makes me happier than to finish my boardroom duties and be a hands-on volunteer, mingling with patients and staff in a variety of different ways,” he says. “I took to the role from the day I first went to the Phelps volunteer office and asked what I could do to help. I started on Ladies Day as a volunteer for the Phelps Auxiliary and eventually became a member of the board.”
A New York City native, Goldsmith graduated with an A.B. degree from Brown University in 1957 and started a career in textile sales that was quickly interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After working in counterintelligence for two and a half years, he moved back to New York City and began work at Macy’s.
“I was a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and later served as a celebrity host. I really enjoyed the fun and excitement of the day and the interaction with the participants and the crowds. The most important thing is to stay
with your float.”
After Macy’s, Goldsmith went to Burlington Industries, working in several different sales divisions over 35 years and eventually becoming sales manager for the company, the largest public textile company in America.
“I retired from Burlington 18 years ago at the age of 63,” he said. “The minute you retire, people ask you what you are going to do. Not being busy is a hard thing to get used to.”
Goldsmith had had some wonderful experiences with Phelps, so it was natural for him to think of the hospital in terms of doing some sort of volunteer work.
“I was living in Briarcliff Manor at the time and they wanted someone from that area, although I convinced myself it was really because of my charm and charisma. I signed up as a volunteer for the auxiliary board and did whatever was needed — working in the gift shop, running bake sales and other small fundraisers and whatever else I was called upon to do.”
Ultimately, Goldsmith became president of the auxiliary, which gained him an automatic seat on Phelps’ board of directors. “The board makes decisions on how to better improve the hospital and its services,” he says. “We have a number of different committees that all work very well together for the good of the hospital and the
patients we serve.”
After two four-year terms on the auxiliary, Goldsmith has served on the hospital’s board for nine years and was selected to be the board’s secretary.
But it is the hands-on, day-to-day life of the hospital that keeps Goldsmith energized and enthusiastic to the point where he devotes as many as 50 hours per month to different tasks.
“Any able-bodied individual who steps up to volunteer at Phelps starts out in patient transportation and so did I,” he says. “While doing this I noticed the volunteer who delivered and sold newspapers so I asked to be switched to that job and got it.”
Phelps says he enjoyed his daily interactions tremendously as “newspaper boy.”
Patients have to pay for the paper and this sometimes involves negotiations and discussions if cash is not on hand. “You’d be surprised at the issues surrounding payment for the newspaper,” he says. “But I enjoy it and often simply pay for the paper myself if things get touchy.”
Another hands-on activity Goldsmith enjoys tremendously is taking adults and children on tours of the hospital.
“I take about 22 at a time, mostly kids, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I show them many different parts of the hospital and its equipment, including the MRI center; the surgery center, when not in use, of course; a mock-up of one of our ambulances; the out-patient rehabilitation center; rehabilitation pool; kitchen and food locker; hyperbaric chamber; a peek into the emergency room; and a look at our X-Ray and CAT scan machines. The kids are always fascinated and I make sure they do not see anything that might upset them.”
In addition to distinguishing himself as a hands-on volunteer in the hospital itself, Goldsmith is also a standout in the co-ed softball league organized by Northwell, the parent network of Phelps and Northern Westchester Hospital.
“The two hospitals have faced off in several games, with me pitching for Phelps,” Goldsmith says. “We haven’t beaten Northern Westchester yet, but we’re working on it.”
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
Goldsmith — who lives in Ossining with wife Donna — says his volunteer work at Phelps has made him a much more effective board member.
“You can’t learn much about the reality of the hospital setting at the table in the boardroom, but you get a feel for what is really happening when you get out into the patient and service areas. People talk and, if you listen, you can find a lot out. I believe it’s very important to be hands-on.”
Goldsmith says he usually spends two hours a day, six days a week doing that kind of volunteer work at Phelps. “Then I have the regular board and committee meetings. I would estimate I usually log in 52 to 54 hours a month when it’s all added up.
“I love both of my Phelps ‘hats’ and wouldn’t trade one for the other. I believe being an effective volunteer requires both.”
For more, visit phelpshospital.org.