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95-year-old volunteer spreads cheer at Hershey Medical Center gift shop

“Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself. It gives you a sense of purpose,” said Arlene Faul of Hershey, who began volunteering the year Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center opened its doors.

She started in admissions and then answered phones at nurses’ stations before landing in the gift shop 39 years ago.

“It’s something I like to do,” Faul said. “I love to meet the people who come through the gift shop, even the salesmen. You need to be among people – it’s good for you.”



Faul is known to gift shop regulars – employees who stop in for a candy bar at lunchtime, recurring patients and family members – for her ready smile and spunky personality.

She finds that many people wander into the gift shop as a welcome distraction from the reason that brought them to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

“I never ask them anything, but sometimes they just start talking about themselves or their family,” she said. “Talking with me helps get their mind off what’s going on, and maybe I help them feel a little bit more at ease.”

She remembers the early days when talk around town questioned whether the M.S. Hershey Foundation should offer $50 million to Penn State to build a teaching hospital and medical school. Couldn’t such a large amount of money be better used elsewhere, some wondered. She laughs at those concerns now.

“It’s good that we have this kind of medical expertise as close to home as we do,” she said. “People see the value of it.”

Forty-nine years and a walking cane later, Faul says Penn State Health has come to feel like family to her. “Sometimes I think, with my walking, should I keep going in?” she said. “But yes. I miss it if I don’t come in.”

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