When Sam Baiardo retired in 2009, his spouse suggested he do something to keep busy. Since then, he has become a valued volunteer at Rush Copley Medical Center, serving more than 3,500 hours.
Sam got his start at Rush Copley driving the courtesy van and golf cart when his daughter, a nurse at the hospital, told him they were looking for drivers. Later, he added the job of wheelchair repair to his duties.
“I like to help out and be with people,” he says. He also likes to fix things and says repairing the wheelchairs is a good way to help out.
Having worked as a millwright, maintaining and repairing machinery, Sam says, “I am used to working with my hands. I know how to do maintenance work on machines and equipment.” He now singlehandedly takes care of Rush Copley’s fleet of wheelchairs and organized his own workshop in the hospital basement.
“When I first started repairing the wheelchairs, they were very behind in repairs,” he remembers. “Once I got caught up fixing seats, backs, wheels and other parts, it started becoming easier.” He volunteers two days a week for a total of eight hours a week. On Tuesdays, he walks through the hospital looking for wheelchairs. Sometimes they are left at his shop for repairs.
Rodney Horton, director of Facilities Management, supervises Sam’s wheelchair repair and considers Sam part of the Facilities Management team.
“Sam is just a terrific person in every way,” Horton says. “He does an outstanding job of maintaining the wheelchairs for the hospital.”
Horton says Sam has a great sense of humor, too, as Sam will show him some mangled wheelchairs and ask, “How did they do this? Run it over with a truck?”
If a chair is beyond repair, Sam saves the parts for other repairs.
“Sam was sorely missed during the 15-month COVID hiatus when volunteers could not be in the hospital,” says Linda Bonifas-Guzman, volunteer services liaison.
“He is a joy to be around,” Horton says. “I can’t help but smile when I see him.”