December 2, 2012

RSVP – Lead With Experience

By Bill Sedlacek
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Eastern Iowa and Western Illnois

Charles Buller: Honoring Memories with Service

Charles Buller, age 82, has reported over 6,800 volunteer hours since joining RSVP in 2006! The vast majority of those have been at Trinity Medical Center, but somehow he has found time to help RSVP each year at Angel Tree, too. To put it in perspective, has worked the equivalent of 875 eight hour days as a volunteer at the Illinois Trinity Hospitals. We all know that the first class health care we enjoy in the Quad- Cities is costly. Therefore, we can appreciate how much money Charles has saved the hospital (and us) by doing routine tasks that otherwise would have to be done by the medical staff.

Charles considers himself richly rewarded by the satisfaction of helping out at Trinity. He started out one morning a week at the Trinity Rock Island front desk, escorting patients to procedure rooms when admitted or to the front entrance when discharged: using a wheel chair if needed, delivering blood supplies and samples, and delivering mail and other comfort items to patients. He tells of delivering one half of a banana to a woman and telling her that she could have had a whole banana. When she said she only wanted a half, he told her “A whole one would have had more “appeal.” He said she laughed and told him in a good natured way to “Get out of here.” It’s easy to imagine that one corny joke brightened that patient’s whole day.

Except for a few years in Florida, Charles spent most of his life in Moline working at production management jobs. After retirement, he worked in real estate for five years. He was widowed in 2005, and began volunteering at Trinity partly because of the great care and compassion they provided his wife during her illness. Volunteering at a hospital seemed a natural fit for him, as his late wife’s family was in the medical professions. His wife and her sisters were nurses, his father-in-law a medical doctor and two brothers-in-laws veterinarians.

His one morning a week at Trinity quickly turned into a five mornings a week with a few Saturday mornings in there too. He spends Monday mornings at Trinity Rock Island and the other four mornings at the 7th street Moline Trinity. He does his Angel Tree service at Southpark Mall during the Christmas season, helping folks to buy gifts for children in low income families.

When asked what motivates him to contribute that much time to the community his reasons had much in common with the reasons most other volunteers give. “It give you a reason to get up and get out, it gives you something to do.” But as he cautioned, you must have a need and a desire to help and leave your ego at the door. You may have been in charge of people or a process in your working life, but as a volunteer, be prepared to do whatever needs to be done. As he says, you must treat everyone the same; be friendly and respectful of everyone regardless of their condition or position in life. He has high praise for the Trinity staff and volunteers stating, “Trinity seems to attract the best people, both coordinators and volunteers themselves. There are none better. I’m very proud to be a member of this great organization.” RSVP Director, Dave Layton, says, “When I hear Charles’ praise for Trinity volunteers it makes me especially proud that already this year 88 RSVP members contributed over 15,500 volunteer hours at all the Trinity campuses!”

Charles has two daughters, one is a speech pathologist in Moline and the other a college director and teacher in Jacksonville Illinois. Two grandchildren and one great grandchild round out his extended and scattered family. One grandchild is a design engineer for Rolls Royce aircraft engines in Indiana Now that he is widowed, it’s just him and his 14 year old dog “Buddy” in the house. He took Buddy, his mother-in-law’s dog when she passed away. However, he does have a special lady friend now. He met her while volunteering, which shows that volunteering may be a way to meet new people and round out your social life.

To learn more about volunteering at hospitals, Angel Tree and the more than 400 hundred volunteer activities RSVP members do, contact RSVP staff at (309) 793-4425 or email