Packard Children’s volunteer honored with Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award

Esther Ellis gifts her time, more than 4,000 hours, in service to patients and families at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Esther Ellis honored with Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award

The best place to connect with patients and their families is in the Gift Shop, says Esther Ellis, a volunteer at Packard Children’s and co-president of the Roth Auxiliary Board of Directors. Her work as a volunteer gives her the opportunity to have meaningful encounters with families and patients who are receiving treatment at the hospital. And she knows what they like best–plush stuffed animal monkeys wearing Packard Children’s t-shirts, See’s Candies boxes wrapped in white paper beneath the cash register counter, and pajamas for parents who unexpectedly find themselves at the hospital overnight.

Ellis has been a volunteer most of her adult life, dedicating service to the Boy Scouts of America, and in the Gift Shop at Packard Children’s for the last six years. Tonight she was honored with the President’s Volunteer Service Award in recognition of the more than 4,000 hours of service she has dedicated to Packard Children’s. The ceremony held at the Li Ka Shing Center on the Stanford Campus included more than 100 people. Ellis accepted an official pin, a personalized certificate and a letter from President Donald Trump in honor of her service. The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the best in the American spirit, and encourages all Americans to improve their communities through volunteer service, and civic participation.

“Esther finds the greatest satisfaction working in the Gift Shop when she has an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s day by bringing a bit of sunshine to a child, parent, visitor or staff member at the hospital,” says Maryellen Brady, director of volunteer services.

When asked why she chooses to volunteer her time at Packard Children’s, Ellis said she wouldn’t have had a good answer six years ago. After retiring from teaching science labs in elementary schools, she wanted to volunteer in a way that would allow her to support children. She also wanted to be challenged to learn something new, while getting back to her original career roots as an occupational therapist. The time she spent in the hospital as a child also influenced her decision.

“I spent a lot of time in hospitals as a child with a serious illness,” says Ellis. “That left an imprint on me. When you’re four years old and have several months in the hospital, you’re kind of too young to know what’s going on, but you remember a lot of it.”

And her work at Packard Children’s has made a difference. Her involvement has touched many aspects of the Gift Shop. In the two years leading up to the new hospital expansion of Packard Children’s, Ellis worked with auxiliary committees, architects, design and space planning experts, cabinet companies, and hospital staff to create plans for the new Gift Shop scheduled to open later this year.

“As president of the Roth Auxiliary she became president of this wonderful group in a time of transition and she took on the job of overseeing the building of our new Gift Shop while being a tour guide on the new hospital and doing a thousand other things,” says Al Cordoba, Esther’s manager at the Gift Shop.

When asked what she will accomplish during the next 4,000 hours volunteer of service, Ellis said she envisions the day when the new larger shop space will be complete. Until then you will find her blowing up balloons, and helping guests select the perfect gift for a loved one staying at the hospital.

Esther Ellis


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