93 Year Old Roper Volunteer Inspires

Thelma Bowling

Every week for the past 12 years, Thelma Bowling joined the Friday team of volunteers at Roper Hospital at 8 a.m. on the dot.

“I could set my clock by Thelma,” said Mitzi Neely, patient representative. “She would call me every Friday to check in.”

Thelma would then make her way to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). The CICU is, arguably, one of Roper’s biggest ministries, and Thelma would transform the waiting room into a place of peace.

Often, the people in the CICU waiting room are facing a bleak and immediate truth: Their loved one, who is still receiving life sustaining care, may be nearing their end. Thelma helped carry their burden by sharing the love of God.

Father Terry Fleming, vice president of missions prior to Mark Dickson, used to say: “Sometimes words are not necessary, just your presence.”

These words perfectly describe Thelma’s role as a volunteer. “Her little tiny shoulder beared a lot,” said Neely. “Sometimes those families don’t want to hear anything. They just want a hand to hold. They need someone who will provide comfort and reassurance.”

Thelma Bowling celebrates her 93rd birthday today. After volunteering in Roper’s CICU for 12 years and logging 1,633 hours, Thelma has entered a retirement phase. (Although she still drives downtown at least twice a week to work out at the gym.)

I am proud to call Thelma my great-grandmother. At home, we call her Grandmommie.

It’s no surprise to me that my Grandmommie has impacted Roper in such a positive way. My great-grandfather, her husband, was a pastor for many years, and Grandmommie carries a love for people everywhere she goes.

I spoke with many of her fellow volunteers and they all agreed that she is a special part of the volunteer family here at Roper. Buzz Edwards and Helen Aldret reminisced about what a wonderful example she was. Buzz joked with me about her love for the complimentary York Peppermint Patties available in the volunteer office, an incentive he thinks fueled her 12-year commitment! Karen Slanker, patient representative, told me her calm spirit and big heart are a breath of fresh air. Lynne Steele, volunteer coordinator, told me that the Friday team always sits down for lunch together and that they dearly miss Thelma’s company.

Thank you, Grandmommie, for being such an important part of so many lives. There is no telling just how many people thank heaven for you every night.

Justin CaldwellJustin Caldwell is a student at the College of Charleston studying Communication and an intern in the Roper St. Francis’ Corporate Communications office. He is a first responder for Charleston County Parks and Recreation. Justin is pursuing a career in the Air Force Reserves after he graduates in 2016.