On a warm April afternoon two years ago, Mary Lou Turner walked into Bradenton Health Care for the first time and offered her volunteer service. Little did Bradenton know how “outstanding” a volunteer and true asset to their community she’d soon become.

The following week, she didn’t come alone. Partnering up with Paws for Friendship, a pet therapy program for schools and care centers, Turner returned with a hopeful attitude and her two therapy dogs, Muffie and Gracie, in tow.

From then on, Turner has visited Bradenton Health Care with the dogs weekly, even dressing them up festively according to the season. Cathy Richards, Activity Director at Bradenton, said: “The love and smiles the dogs bring to our residents are way beyond outstanding; however, their ‘momma’ is the one that goes above and beyond the pet therapy call of duty.”

Richards gushed about Turner and her compassionate, generous, giving spirit: “When she comes across a resident that she sees in need of new shoes, or sweaters, or is feeling down, she brings in ‘something special’ for them the next visit.”

Mary Lou listens to the needs, desires, and hopes of Bradenton Health Carethat of the staff and residents alike. Richards explained: “If she hears the activity department or a resident or staff member say we could use [anything]… The next visit, she has it for us!”

Turner often donates snacks, clothes, slippers, gifts, and jewelry for the residents and staff, and sponsors two residents per month for Bradenton’s regular lunch outings. She also donates gift cards from the community for the Christmas auction, which raises funds for Christmas gifts (and cheer) for beloved residents who don’t have friends and family around anymore.

But even greater than the much appreciated monetary assistance and useful supplies, Turner brings love and Consulate’s core values in spadesfrom herself as well as her four-legged friends. Of all five core values, Turner relies on “compassion” most of all. Her reasoning is brief and simple, but powerful: “Compassion is what makes a difference in others’ lives.”

“Compassion is what makes a difference in others’ lives.”

Steven Oelfke, Executive Director at Bradenton, said: “Mary Lou is a compassionate person who sees others’ needs and then serves with her heart.” Mary Lou, Muffie, and Gracie’s visits are the “highlight” of many residents’ days. Over the past two years, Muffie and Gracie have become more than just Turner’s dogs, but those of all dog-lovers in the Bradenton Health Care community.

In light of Turner’s embodiment of Consulate’s core values and weekly volunteer work, this spring Richards nominated Turner for the Florida Health Care Activities Coordinators Association (FHCACA) 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award.

In her time volunteering at Bradenton, Turner said she has been impacted by manyin particular, a 99-year-old veteran and a centenarian. Of the care center, she said: “Everyone is so friendly! I love the people, and I hope I can bring happiness to the residents.”

Her advice to those working or volunteering with seniors: “Be yourself and be friendly, and get to know them and know their names.”

Muffie and Gracie could not be reached for comment as of press time. But their tail wags say it all!