By Emily Younker and Scott Meeker
Nova Kluseman has staked her claim on Wednesdays at the Mercy medical office clinics where she volunteers. The staff at Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri will know it’s Thursday when they see Jeanne Morrow walk through the door.
It’s just one day a week spent volunteering their time, but each woman feels that those hours can make a world of difference.
Each Wednesday afternoon, Kluseman can be found manning a table set up in the Mercy clinics, a series of modular buildings erected between the component hospital erected by Mercy Hospital Joplin and the construction site for the new Irving Elementary School.
The pink jacket she wears identifies her as a hospital volunteer, though the term “guide” might be more appropriate.
Kluseman was formerly stationed at the medical office building destroyed in the tornado along with the main St. John’s building. While her duties remain much the same as they have since she began volunteering in 2006, things have changed greatly in the past two years.
“It’s a whole new ball game now,” she said. “Mostly, I send people to their doctors. There’s such a confusion here that you have to know where all the doctors are and what their profession is.”
It’s a big job, considering the doctors are spread throughout the complex, among the maze-like series of walkways and corridors. Kluseman, however, knows it like the back of her hand and is there to answer any questions that patients might have.
She said she loves the four hours a week she gets to spend at the Mercy clinic, although her new location has one disadvantage of her previous spot.
“I miss the coffee pot we had,” she said.
It’s worth mentioning that Kluseman is 96 years old and has no intention of giving up her volunteer duties anytime soon.
“I hope I’m still at it when the new hospital is finished, which is only two years away,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
While Wednesday is Kluseman’s day to volunteer at Mercy, Thursday is the day that Morrow can be found volunteering for Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri.
The 68-year-old Neosho resident has been coming to Joplin to volunteer with the organization each week since June 2011.
“I was anxious to do something (after the tornado),” she said. “I knew I couldn’t be doing debris cleanup or any of the heavier stuff like that.”
When she learned that Catholic Charities had set up their base of operations at McAuley High School after the tornado, she went there and was immediately put to work, she said.
Her initial duties included helping to organize and set up for the clients coming in to seek help. Then, she helped to get organized again when Catholic Charities moved to a new location at Eighth and Main streets.
“We had a lot of donations to sort, I helped paint rails and just did whatever needed to be done,” said Morrow.
While Morrow never intended her work with Catholic Charities to continue indefinitely, that is the way it has worked out, she said.
“I feel like I’m getting more than I’m giving,” she said. “This has become like another family for me ... there’s a loving atmosphere and a real camaraderie that I’ve never experienced before.”