GARDNERVILLE, Nev. – As Chris Longley looks back, she can see so clearly those moments where it started.
She finds them in the resolute steps of her 9-year-old self striding up the walkways of a New England neighborhood to visit her father’s patients.
Even then, there was no turning back.
She would care for others. That would be her calling. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My dad was a small-town doctor who made regular housecalls,” she said. “There were a couple of women who were homebound and he thought they would really appreciate if I would stop by and visit with them on my way home from school.”
“So I did. They were all so gracious and so glad to have the company. I just tried not to make too much of a pill of myself -- which 9-year-olds can do pretty easily. I enjoyed getting to know them and getting to help care for them.”
It’s something she never stopped enjoying -- through a career as a registered nurse including, not at all coincidentally, a long stint in home care.
She retired from nursing in 1989. She and her husband, after abandoning aspirations of sailing around the world in Hawaii before turning back for the mainland, spent an entire summer crisscrossing the country in a pickup truck in search of a lasting home.
A passing conversation with a friend hailing from South Lake Tahoe ultimately led them to Carson Valley.
In October of 2004 she began volunteering at Carson Valley Medical Center in Gardnerville and has been a familiar face at the hospital ever since.
This past May, she was awarded CVMC’s Claire Bauer Heart of a Volunteer Award, given annually to a volunteer within the CVMC organization. The award’s namesake -- Claire Bauer -- passed away unexpectedly at the age of 71 in February of 2016. She had been a long-time volunteer at CVMC, as well as within Douglas County School District. Her family wanted to carry on their mother’s legacy by recognizing others who, like Claire, have a kind, compassionate and giving heart -- always willing to lend a hand.
“I was so incredibly humbled and honored with the award, much more because of who it represents,” Longley said. “Claire was such a wonderful person. So warm and caring. I don’t think she ever met anyone who wasn’t a friend. She was just an incredible woman.”
In introducing Longley during the award ceremony, Carson Valley Medical Center Director Shannon Albert said Longley was someone who met every level of qualification for the award.
“She has come to represent so much of what is good about the CVMC Family,” Albert said. “She is kind, welcoming and helpful toward patients, their families, CVMC staff and her fellow volunteers.”
“Her warm smile often sets the tone for the entire experience of anyone who walks through our doors and we are so blessed that she has continuously chosen to give of herself and her time under our roof all of these years.”
Longley said she has volunteered many places, for many different organizations over the years but that Carson Valley Medical Center stands apart.
“In all the places I have volunteered, and there have been a few, this is the best,” she said. “Staff has become family. I think that might be the nature of a small, rural facility, but it just makes this a wonderful place to be.”
Nominations are open for the 2018 Claire Bauer Heart of a Volunteer Award. Nominations for the award, which includes a cash gift, may be submitted by paper or electronically.
To read more about the Heart of a Volunteer Award or nominate a volunteer, visit cvmchospital.org/heartofavolunteer.
Carson Valley Medical Center is a non-profit medical organization that provides acute and ICU care, surgery, 24-hour emergency services, primary care and outpatient services within Carson Valley. A partnership of Barton Health and Renown Health, Carson Valley Medical Center’s mission is to care for the health and wellness of our community by providing accessible, affordable, high quality healthcare for all. For more information, visit www.cvmchospital.org