After More Than 40,000 Service Hours, Volunteer Keeps on Giving
Why has Chris Linkous dedicated so much time to St. Joseph's Hospitals? It's simple, she says. She loves the people.
When it comes to volunteering, Chris Linkous is out of this world. Since joining St. Joseph’s Hospitals Auxiliary in 1994, she’s logged over 40,000 service hours. That's more than four and a half consecutive years, or longer than it takes light from Earth to reach Proxima Centauri, our nearest star.
“It’s fair to say I’ve been here a long time,” Chris said.
Volunteer and auxiliary teams are an important part of BayCare hospitals. In spiritual care, pet therapy and ambassador roles, they help guide and comfort visitors during difficult times. As fundraisers they help raise money for major gifts that improve patient and team member experiences.
Chris started as a "Pedi Pal" at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, where she fed, comforted and entertained babies. Later, as the first chairperson of the Cuddler Program at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital (SJWH), she helped nurses feed infants as they learned how to eat, swallow and breathe properly.
It could be challenging to see babies in need, but it never felt like work to Chris. She loved it too much.
“I was just so elated to be able to work with babies,” said Chris, who, on top of volunteering, was the office manager at her husband’s veterinary office for 40 years. “I loved infants and still do.”
After the new NICU opened at SJWH, Chris started lending a hand elsewhere in the hospital. She joined the SJWH gift shop around 2000 and served as its chairperson for many years. She appreciates how gift shops are a great fundraising resource for the Auxiliary, which donates their profits back to the hospitals, but she knows the gift shop is more than just a place for people to make a purchase.
“I look at our gift shops as not only a place to raise money for the hospitals but also a place for people to retreat when they’re having a bad day,” she said. Chris has hugged and helped team members, patients and their families through some of the toughest and happiest moments of their lives.
Chris is both admired and adored by fellow volunteers and team members. Devon Polo, manager of volunteer resources at St. Joseph's Hospitals, said, "She's kind of like my right hand. We go on buying trips and buy all the merchandise in our St. Joe's gift shops. We both aspire for the gift shop to be successful because it allows the auxiliary to fund major gifts for patient care and team members. She's truly indispensable to our team. We couldn't do it without her."
For Carmen Pelletz, president of the St. Joseph's Women's Hospital Auxiliary, Chris is a rock that serves as the team's foundation.
"With her experience and expertise, she is the go-to for any questions about the auxiliary," Carmen said. "I feel very fortunate to be able to work with Chris. She is a wonderful person who is compassionate, devoted and caring. I am a better volunteer and a better person because of her."
So, what keeps Chris coming back to volunteer? It's simple. She loves the people.
“I love what I do because I love the people I work with,” she said. “Our team members and volunteers are just fantastic. They're giving, they’re kind. I'm constantly blown away by how wonderful they are.”
Chris has scaled back from the 14-hour days she used to sometimes volunteer. But you can still find her at the St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital gift shop a couple times a week. Stop by on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings, and you’ll find her there to help.
For more information on how to volunteer at BayCare, click here.