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Volunteer Spotlight: Honoring The Golden Girls of ReSurge

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It’s a sunny day at the Canyon Inn, a classic family diner decked in1970s sports memorabilia in Redwood City, California. A group of eight women, most of them in their 80s and 90s, gather around an outdoor table with a red and white checkered tablecloth, laughing and swapping stories from the operating room. These women are none other than the Golden Girls—a group of ReSurge International volunteers who’ve known each other ​​since the late 1950’s. The name is fitting, most likely inspired by the 1980s TV sitcom of the same title, featuring a group of strong, opinionated, and colorful women. Although no one remembers the details of the naming exactly.

For the past 50 years, these bright women have been loyal volunteers for ReSurge International. They are a tight knit group of nurses and anesthesiologists who worked together for many years in the operating rooms at Sequoia Hospital. They have a certain bond about them that you can only get from years of friendship and collaboration on the frontlines of healthcare work.

The Golden Girls have deep roots with ReSurge International. They worked with our founder Dr. Don Laub, and through him became involved with our humanitarian trips when we were called Interplast. Volunteer teams of medical professionals would make regular trips to Mexico and Honduras, providing care for local patients who lacked the means to pay for reconstructive surgery.

For Golden Girl Janet Lull, those early volunteer trips impacted her life in an incredible way.

“Being a volunteer for ReSurge changed my life. I was blessed to join medical trips to three different countries in Central America. Seeing the families, full of hope and anticipation for their loved ones to finally get surgical care, brought the reality of what we were doing home. To know that many of these families walk miles and miles to get to a hospital is humbling. I’ll never forget it.”

There are many ways to volunteer, and the Golden Girls soon found a creative way to use their expertise to solve a need and drive impact. For facial operations like cleft lip and cleft palate surgery, there are about six surgical items needed to create a sterile environment. It is very expensive to buy these items pre-packaged, and they almost always come with an excess of materials. So the Golden Girls would collect the correct tools for facial surgeries, and put them into small bundles in an autoclave wrapper. These custom face-packs were then ready for sterilization and convenient for travel. “Having these face-packs meant that our surgical teams would have everything they needed in one place, “said Dora Rusin-Gomez, Director of Volunteer Services & Medical Supplies. “The custom packs worked perfectly for us because they save us a lot of time, effort and funds,”The Face-PacksVolunteers in Action

Throughout the years, the Golden Girls would meet regularly, making at least 100 face-packs at a time. “What seems like a simple item, these face-packs, is actually extremely important for a surgical procedure and it needs to be correctly prepared.” Janet says. “I love knowing that the face-pack I’ve helped to assemble will end up being used to correct a congenital condition in a far away country.”

This particular day at the Canyon Inn is a special one for the Golden Girls. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other since the Covid 19 pandemic, and the excitement, love, and nostalgia is palpable. It is also a special day because it is one of the last times the Golden Girls will be meeting as a working group. Now that everyone is vaccinated, they will still meet weekly for lunch, but they are finally retiring from their volunteer work after almost 50 incredible years of service.

Janet left us with some wise words about the power of volunteer work. “To be a volunteer is a gift that gives one a sense of purpose and satisfaction. It’s not always easy to find the right volunteer match, but there is much need in the world. Sometimes what might seem simple can actually make a huge impact.”

From the bottom of our hearts at ReSurge International, we want to thank and honor all of the incredible women who make up the Golden Girls volunteer group. Their years of service, laughter, and love have made such a difference in our work, and will live on well into the future.

Thank you:

Janet Lull
Ruthie Gallagher
Joan Wheelwright
Marty Bernard
Donna McKinney
Katie Holmes
Sandy Gunnarson
Jean Kucic
Irene Afendakis
Beth Charvonia

There are many ways to support us in our mission. Learn more about supporting our programs here, or reach out to dora@resurge.org about volunteer opportunities.

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