At 93 and 90 years “young” respectively, Rose Repke and Al Toma (above, with patient Felix Rivera) say they’ve had more than their share of Happy New Year’s Eves. So instead of spending the holidays out dining on the town, they’ve focused on bringing some holiday cheer to others. For more than a decade, the two veteran volunteers at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn have helped patients confined to the hospital ring in the new year.
“We get all decked out for the evening and when we show up in patients’ rooms, they ask us where we’re going,” says Rose. “We tell them, we’re coming to see you.”
The retired travel agent came up with the idea after her volunteer pal Al invited her to a country club for New Year’s Eve. But Rose says she told him she had a better idea—to show up at the hospital instead. At first, she admits Al thought the idea was a little bit crazy, but their pre-holiday appearance worked so well, it’s become an annual tradition.
“To be doing this for the past ten years is an amazing act of kindness,” says Kimberley Arlotta, director of volunteers at St. Francis. “Spending New Year’s Eve in the hospital can be very depressing, but Al and Rose always manage to bring lots of smiles wherever they go.”
The idea has worked so well that Al, a retired pharmaceuticals rep and Army war hero, recently brought a brand new tux especially for the occasion.
“We’ve both been to many glamorous places in our lifetimes, but these have been our best New Years ever,” says Rose, who volunteers at St. Francis every Wednesday with Al. “Sometimes we’ll see people at the hospital and they’ll tell us ‘we met you on New Year’s Eve’ and we’ll never forget what you’ve done.”
Photo by Joe Danielle.