Veteran inspired to volunteer at Reid Health as a way of giving back after knee surgery
Bob Ladd, Reid Health volunteer
If you walk through the doors of the Reid Health Outpatient Care Center on a Monday morning, you'll likely run into Bob Ladd.
He'll be the older gentleman at the greeter station with a smile on his face and an eagerness to help in whatever way you might need.
"I take it seriously that I'm the face of Reid," Ladd said. "When that person comes in and we engage each other, this is the first impression, this is the first contact with the hospital. It needs to be positive. It needs to be uplifting.
"So many people when they walk in that door, their mind is just racing. You can see it. They have that 1,000-yard stare. You can't direct them anywhere because they're not listening, and that's when you reach out to them. 'Can I help you?' 'I'll tell you what, I'll take you there.' I try to give them a positive, upbeat experience."
Ladd is a Richmond resident whose 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy took him and his family around the world before settling in the city with a career as a custodian at Indiana University East.
After retirement about four years ago, Ladd was looking for things to do to occupy his time. That's when his wife, Kim, had a suggestion for him. Ladd had a partial knee replacement done through Reid Health some years ago and often would talk about how much he had been impressed by the care he received throughout the process.
"My wife said, 'You keep talking about what a good experience that knee was, right?' I said, 'Well, yeah.' She said, 'Why don't you pay it back? Why don't you volunteer?' I had never thought of it," Ladd said.
With a background from his time in the Navy of working in retail and similar services, Ladd thought helping at the Gingko Boutique on Reid's main campus in Richmond might be the best place for him, but it quickly became apparent as he was going through the interview process his talents would be better suited elsewhere.
"I've embraced life with a really good attitude, and I think I've infected my children and my grandchildren and friends and other family members," Ladd said.
"Sometimes they get a little tired of me because I'm such a Pollyanna, but it's really hard for me to come up with something negative. If I come up with a negative, I can counter it with a positive."
"Volunteering feeds the soul. For me, it's an emotional thing. It just feeds a need in me to reach out and help." -- Bob Ladd
Ladd works a four-hour shift on Monday mornings, meeting and greeting people as they arrive at the Outpatient Care Center on the Richmond campus, giving them directions, and getting a wheelchair for those who need it before taking them to their destination.
"Sometimes they decline the wheelchair, but then I watch them hobble away so I come up behind them and say, 'Do you want to take my arm?' And then I slowly walk them to where they need to go."
For Ladd, volunteering speaks to the same part of him that serving in the Navy once did.
"Volunteering feeds the soul. For me, it's an emotional thing. It just feeds a need in me to reach out and help," he said.
"I'm not a doctor. I'm not even a nurse. I don't have the skills to support a sick or injured person, but I'm a charming man and I'm engaging. I can greet you at the door and make you feel like you're in a friendly place and that we're going to give you the best care we possibly can."
Ladd wants to add another day of volunteer work to his schedule at Reid soon.
"You're just not getting enough of a fix," his wife told him. "I look forward to my Monday mornings," he said. "It gives me a sense of mission, and I'm thrilled and excited about it. It's worth that alone. It's just been incredible, and I'm not done. I've got a lot to do yet.
"I'm just a volunteer, but I love what I do."
Ladd is part of a team that helps support more than 50 areas at Reid, serving as hosts/hostesses, providing information, escorting patients and visitors, delivering mail, assisting on nursing units and in offices, and much more.
"Our volunteers are so important. They provide the extra hands, the smiling face, and help us meet our mission," said Shara Short, Manager of Volunteer Services for Reid Health. "Having a volunteer like Bob welcome community members to Reid helps put people at ease. We're so grateful for Bob and all our volunteers."