Pat Howland lives by the motto, "Always choose hope over fear."

Pat Howland lives by the motto, "Always choose hope over fear."

With such an optimistic outlook on life, it's no wonder the lifelong Bexley resident became such an inspiration at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital where she volunteers every Monday. After nearly a decade of service there, she received the hospital's Nancy J. Pitton Spirit of Hope award in April.

"It is the nicest award I have ever received because it means so much to me," said Howland, who was surprised by the honor her daughters had kept a secret until the night of the awards dinner. "I was very grateful and I feel blessed."

A lifelong resident of Bexley, Howland, 85, is a concierge and one of the first faces patients and their families see at The James. She escorts patients to their surgery rooms and anywhere else they might need to go.

But she doesn't just stand at her podium and wait for patients and their families to come to her asking for directions. She goes out of her way to make everyone feel welcome, said Megan Springer, the program manager of the hospital's Department of Patient Experience who nominated Howland for the award.

"She's not just pointing out the landmarks of how to get to Point A to Point B; she's really having a conversation and making patients and their families feel as relaxed as possible," Springer said. "It takes a unique person to be able to do that in such a high-stress area."

"She is always full of hope and offers a smile and is just friendly to everyone," Springer continued. "Pat is really a gift to us here as an organization because she makes the lobby area feel so warm and welcoming and not so scary of a place."

Howland is a founding member of the Ohio State University Medical Center Service Board, and over the past two decades, she has spent time volunteering at the hospital library and Discovery Shop, a resale store in the Kenny Centre that supports the American Cancer Society.

She credits her ability to connect with patients to her dedication to service, but having been in their shoes helps, too.

Seven years ago, Howland underwent surgery at The James to treat lung cancer.

"I found that as long as I know where I'm going, I'm fine," she said. "So while I'm taking people to their rooms, I try to build a rapport, and when I deliver them to (the surgery unit), they give me a big hug and they'll have a tear in their eye, which gets me a little emotionally involved, but I just want to help -- I just want to give everybody the best possible feeling about cancer."