From corporate office to North Shore surgical waiting room

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Irene Redleaf, a nearly lifelong resident of Great Neck, has volunteered with North Shore University Hospital for 16 years. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Irene Redleaf, a nearly lifelong resident of Great Neck, has volunteered with North Shore University Hospital for 16 years. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

For countless Fridays and a handful of holidays since her retirement from the corporate world in 2002, Irene Redleaf, has made it a point to volunteer in another high pressure area: a surgical waiting room of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

Sometimes dozens of people wait in the waiting room for news on loved ones going through procedures ranging from heart surgeries and kidney transplants to child delivery, Redleaf said. In that job she checks patients in, refers them to the staff and works with families in the waiting room.

Irene Redleaf works a few hours every week in the surgical waiting room, checking in patients and delivering news – both good and bad – to families. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Irene Redleaf works a few hours every week in the surgical waiting room, checking in patients and delivering news – both good and bad – to families. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

“I loved working, no question about it,” Redleaf, 77, said on Wednesday. “And the volunteering is very rewarding.”

Redleaf, a nearly lifelong resident of Great Neck, is one of countless volunteers in the Northwell Health hospital who might do anything from clerical work to helping a child feel better.

People ranging from teenagers to seniors can volunteer in 14 Northwell-affiliated hospitals such as Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, North Shore University Hospital, Glen Hospital, Zucker Hillside Hospital and more.

But she is also one of the latest people to reach 5,000 service hours, just over a month after she was honored for more than 4,800 hours of service at the Town of North Hempstead’s Annual Senior Recognition Luncheon along with fellow volunteer Gail Case.

And, according to Director of Volunteer Services at North Shore University Hospital Lisa Breiman, it takes a strong person to work in the surgical room of the hospital.

North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

“She’s got a great, caring nature,” Breiman said, noting Redleaf’s “attention to detail” and ability to create a “caring environment.” “She volunteers in our surgical waiting room, which is probably one of the hardest places our volunteers are.”

Redleaf had also served on the North Shore University Hospital Auxiliary Board as chairperson of the Surgical Waiting Room, as well as inpatient relations and reception.

“I had retired from corporate life in the year 2000 and said ‘okay, and now for the next stage in life, what can I do?'” Redleaf said.

Redleaf said she chose to volunteer with North Shore University Hospital because of its reputation and proximity to Great Neck, where she has lived and raised her family.

“She enjoys it,” Breiman said of Redleaf’s service. “That’s what the big thing is: she really likes what she does.” Redleaf said she and her husband were among the last graduating classes of Great Neck High School – in other words, before there was a Great Neck North High School and Great Neck South High School.

Irene Redleaf and her husband David pose with David, one of their seven grandchildren, at his graduation. (Photo courtesy of Irene Redleaf)
Irene Redleaf and her husband David pose with David, one of their seven grandchildren, at his graduation. (Photo courtesy of Irene Redleaf)

“And then my kids went to Baker [Elementary] and then to North, so we’ve been here for a very long time,” Redleaf said, noting she and her husband only briefly moved away to New York City before having children.

Together, the Redleafs now have three children and seven grandchildren.

In addition to volunteering at North Shore Hospital, Redleaf also takes continuing education classes at the Great Neck Public Schools’ Cumberland Adult Center and frequents art galleries, lectures, the American Ballet Theater and New York Philharmonic.

“Being retired in general is a whole new life,” Redleaf said.

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