For the MacArthur Family, Volunteering is in the Genes

Date: September 03, 2019

Family Dedicates Over 50 Years of Service through Volunteerism

Much has changed at Needham’s hospital over the past 50 years. In that span, the hospital has been transformed from a small community hospital, “Glover,” to an award-winning medical facility, “Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Needham,” which brings Boston-level care to the suburbs. The campus is now home to a sophisticated Breast Cancer Center; a premier Cancer Center and Surgical Pavillion; and as of May, 2019, a new 37,000 square foot Outpatient Clinical Center. In the face of all the changes, one tradition that has remained constant over those years: volunteerism - and the MacArthur family has exemplified just what that commitment means.

In the late 1960’s, Ruth “Ruthie” MacArthur (pictured above, 1927-2019) began the family tradition when she started volunteering in the coffee shop at Glover Hospital, now the site of the BIDMC Lank Cancer Center. Fast-forward to today, over 50 years later, where Michaela, Ruthie’s granddaughter and the youngest in the family, is now a volunteer at the hospital. Michaela first officially volunteered at BID–Needham seven years ago and she has returned each year since.

Michaela, who is a full-time nursing student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, helps in a variety of ways with volunteer service at BID–Needham. For the past several years, she has greeted and escorted patients to and from their appointments, assisted with discharging patients from surgery or inpatient units, transporting specimen samples to the laboratory, restocking nurse’s precaution carts, and completing various non-clinical tasks.

“My family totally inspired me to volunteer here and I wanted to make a difference, just as they did,” Michaela said from her home in Needham. “My grandmother volunteered for over 40 years at the café and touched so many lives. Her life was committed to volunteering. I have very fond memories visiting my grandmother with my sister in the café.”

“It is great to see the hospital prospering and growing,” said Michaela, pictured above volunteering at the popcorn machine at the Tree Topping Ceremony in 2017 for the new Outpatient Clinical Center said. “It has been amazing to watch the incredible changes. Since I was a kid, I’ve watched the growth from a small local hospital to a bigger hospital, touching and helping so many lives.”

Micheala’s older sister, Victoria MacArthur, now a 30-year-old accountant in Boston, became an official volunteer in 2003-2004. Like Michaela, Victoria had spent many days of her childhood at the hospital. In addition to helping patients at the hospital, Vicky handled the register, took orders, and made friends with the “regulars,” including people living in Needham and the local firefighters and police officers.

“Volunteering alongside my grandmother will always be something that I cherish,” Vicky said. “Helping the patients and seeing the regular customers who were always so happy to see us drove me to keep volunteering. I still remember all of the volunteers I worked with. We were like a big happy family and I absolutely loved being a part of this amazing group.”

Michaela’s father, Paul, was not an official volunteer, but may as well have been. Helping his mother out, he would clean the coffee shop and fill condiment containers, such as saltshakers and ketchup bottles. Other days, his mother would send him on his bike throughout Needham to sell Hospital Aid Memberships door-to-door. Her mother, Sarah, was also heavily involved, helping to clean, take orders, and lend a hand in the old gift shop when needed.

“In our family, it isn’t expected that we volunteer at the hospital - it was an unintentional tradition,” Micheala added. “When [Tracy Murphy, Director of Volunteer Services] confirmed that I would be volunteering at BID–Needham, I was ecstatic. I feel honored to uphold my family’s tradition and to complete duties for this hospital.”

In 2011, Ruthie was honored by the Needham Exchange Club with the prestigious “Book of Golden Deeds,” awarded to a Needham resident who has a history of selfless contribution for the betterment of the town. Don Regan, who has worked in food services at BID–Needham since the early 1980’s, says there was no one more deserving.

“She was the nicest lady going,” Regan, who worked many years in the coffee shop alongside Ruthie, said. “She worked hard and took her role very seriously. She took pride in her work.”

It is safe to say the MacArthur family and volunteerism will continue to play a vital role in the hospital’s future, as it has the past.

“Volunteering at BID–Needham has been an honor and a wonderful experience,” Michaela said. “I hope to be here for many more years to come, as my grandma was. I hope that while volunteering at BID–Needham, I can make a difference in at least one person’s life.”