Val Smith could conduct a class on the art of community service, but even that seems as though it might be a bit too much attention for the ever humble Leader-area resident who continues to defy age stereotypes and give back to her community in the process.
Smith has been the head cashier at MANNA thrift store at 43rd and Rosslyn for the last 27 ½ years, all the while volunteering at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights and somehow finding time to go bowling twice a week. Oh, and did it ever occur that Val celebrated her 97th birthday on March 31?
It certainly doesn’t seem to for those watching her continue to serve more than 1,000 hours at MANNA, as she did in 2016.
“She’s just an extremely dedicated person, and she takes her volunteer job here very seriously,” said Patricia Dornak, MANNA’s executive director. “If someone calls in sick or can’t work as the cashier that day, she’s always Johnny on the spot. What stands out to me is just her dedication to the mission, the store, her comrades and her fellow workers.”
For Smith, the hours spent at MANNA and Memorial Hermann go beyond the work, and serve as a motivator when she wakes up each day.
“If I didn’t come to work here or at the hospital, I don’t know what I would do with myself—I would just sit around the house and get old,” she said with a chuckle. “I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the years, but this is what keeps me going.”
As a volunteer, the only goal Smith seeks is to serve her community in any fashion she is able, and sees the opportunity to serve and be around others as a blessing.
“I’ve worked almost all of my life, so this is just a continuation of what I’ve always done. It makes me feel good to see that they’re satisfied and pleased with our service,” she said. “It’s just great being around people.” When Smith was first offered the opportunity more than 27 years ago, some initial apprehension crept in. Upon her first shift in the community service (and MANNA) environment, however, her mindset changed in the blink of an eye.
“I really wasn’t all that excited about it, but then once I got here I just stayed because I loved being around the people,” she said.
Her passion for being around and serving others appears to have not gone unnoticed.
“She’s really kind of an icon in this organization, and she’s so highly respected,” Dornak said. “Everybody just wants to be Val.”