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Local volunteer is national honoree

August 18, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

On Sunday, when Millie Fiery's name was called at the National Governors Association annual meeting in Indianapolis, she wasn't there. Despite being one of only three private citizens in the country being recognized for uncommon dedication to improving their communities, Fiery had other plans.

The 89-year-old Hagerstown woman was where she felt she could do more good - volunteering her time at the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is that devotion that won Fiery the award in the first place.

"I usually stop by the hospital on Sundays after church to see what needs doing," Fiery said.

Fiery was one of 26 Maryland volunteers recognized and one of only three to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at a state awards ceremony held at the Maryland Hall for Creative Arts in Annapolis on April 30.

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From that sprang the national award, which this year honors an Alabama physician, an Indiana conservationist and Fiery.

Fiery's interest in Western Maryland Hospital Center began after her mother had a stroke and was a patient there in 1957. She has been volunteering ever since, logging more than 30,000 service hours in the past 46 years - the equivalent of 15 years of full-time employment.

She organized the auxiliary at Western Maryland and now is the only charter member left.

"I'm usually here by 8:30 a.m.," Fiery said. "I don't miss too many days."

As word spread of Fiery's national award, employees, patients and their families have been wishing Fiery well.

"One of the reasons I love working here is Miss Millie," said Barbara Shirk, a direct-care worker. "She has helped me many times over the years."

Fiery helps anyway she can - delivering mail to patients, staffing the volunteer office, helping transport dialysis patients to and from the center and visiting with patients.

"I've seen so much," she said. "But I'm always happy to see people leave here better than they came in."

In a chronic disease hospital that offers long-term care, that isn't always the case, Fiery said.

"There are lots of wives here taking care of their husbands, and husbands taking care of wives," Fiery said. "Some families put people here and forget about them but many others are here every day."

She encourages anyone to get involved and volunteer, if not at Western Maryland, somewhere else. "We all need to give of ourselves," she said.

Married to Bud Fiery for almost 46 years before he died in 1980, she still lives in the Fountain Head home they bought new in 1954. Volunteering kept her busy while she adjusted to life without her husband.

"I'm trying to live life to the fullest. I'm just glad for everything I still have," she said, including her daughter and son-in-law, three grandsons and 10 great-grandchildren.

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