When St. Ann's hospital opened in Westerville 30 years ago, it needed volunteers.

When St. Ann's hospital opened in Westerville 30 years ago, it needed volunteers.

Little did officials know that when the hospital -- now known as Mt. Carmel St. Ann's -- celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, some of those volunteers still would be in the hospital family.

Becky Eldridge, Judy Joseph, Donna Karshner, Sue Miller, Marcia Staub and Loretta Thomas are the only volunteers to last all 30 years and said they are thrilled to be celebrating the anniversary with the hospital.

Joseph, Karshner and Thomas met at their first day of orientation and have worked together since then.

"We've been friends for 30 years," Joseph said. "We're very close."

"It's like a family," Miller added.

The women all started volunteering for different reasons. Miller's mother was in the former St. Ann's location on Bryden Road in Columbus and told her she had always wanted to volunteer. Miller joined as a tribute to her mother when she died.

Karshner's late husband was treated at St. Ann's for Alzheimer's disease and cancer, and the 89-year-old said she's been trying to repay the hospital for its help for 30 years.

"I'm still trying to give back," she said, holding back tears. "I'll never be able to give back."

For Joseph, who has five children, taking care of others is simply second nature.

"People say they don't know what their purpose in life is," she said. "Mine is being a caretaker."

As St. Ann's has changed, so have the women and their roles. They once were responsible for delivering medications, copying charts and alphabetizing records.

Now they largely are depended upon for such tasks as discharging patients, arranging for flowers and "lots of little things."

Their most important role still is to make visitors of patients feel comfortable.

"You talk a lot with (visitors), but you don't always want to bother the patients," Joseph said. "They're not always at their best when they're at the hospital. But that means that we have to be at our best."

Although some, like Joseph, primarily have been parents and volunteers, others have maintained jobs while volunteering.

Miller worked for a pharmacy and in other offices but said she never felt like volunteering was a job.

"It's not quite as stressful here. They're just really easy on us at St. Ann's," she said. "They've always treated us well. They always thank us, even though we tell them we don't need the thanks. We do it because we like it."