At 72, Barb Bletzer has been a vital part of the Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley volunteer team since the hospital’s inception.
Upon retiring from the Boardman Police Department after 25 years of service, she realized she didn’t want to be a couch potato. It wasn’t long before an ad in The Vindicator revealed her next calling in life.
Five years and 2,000 hours of service later, Barb can add another accomplishment to her resume: the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
She arrived before the Boardman campus even opened, training to volunteer at the front desk as well as run the craft cart and book cart to children in the hospital.
One of her biggest contributions to Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley is the vibrant decorations that adorn the front desk year-round.
“That desk is the first thing people see when they walk in. I always say, your first impression is your last impression, so I really want them to see something beautiful and welcoming when they come in. They remember that.”
Barb sees her attention to detail as a reflection of the attention patients and their families will receive during their stay at Akron Children’s.
Last May, Barb was diagnosed with Stage I lung cancer. She underwent surgery and five months of chemo treatments, but still managed to deliver her decorations to the front desk, never missing a holiday.
Barb credits much of her recovery to her Akron Children’s family.
“They took me under their wing and I became their patient,” she said. “People called me all the time. I received a stack of cards and prayers that really gave me hope.”
Receiving the President’s Volunteer Service Award came as a welcome surprise.
“It arrived in a plain, standard envelope, so I was really floored when I opened it,” Bletzer said.
As she received her award in January, Barb looked out at the people there to support her: her niece, her best friends, and her Akron Children’s family member, JoAnn Stock.
After the ceremony, Barb gave her awards to JoAnn, saying, “These are an honor for the hospital. You should have them here.”
This is just one example of the selflessness and compassion that makes Barb a volunteer worthy of presidential recognition. But Barb doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s wonderful to know you’re loved. Everyone here keeps me going. And if I can put one smile on a child’s face, that’s my reward.”