When times were hard and her family was struggling, Brenda Gray credits God and a few angels at Akron Children’s Hospital for giving her the break she needed.
“In the late ’70s the Department of Job and Family Services had a program that offered young women a chance to work instead of living on public assistance,” she said. “I came from a working-class family, so I wanted to work. I was sent to Akron Children’s and met with Mary Brown in the human resources department. After passing a typing test, I interviewed with admitting department supervisor Gloria Gordon, who hired me as a patient service representative. I was humble and so thankful to God for the opportunity to work and help my family.”
Determined to do well in her new role, Brenda purchased the Family Medical Guide by Better Homes and Gardens and diligently studied all 1,088 pages. She also took a medical terminology class offered at Our Lady of the Elms.
“It was important for me to learn the language and terms so I could do my job with knowledge,” she said.
Set to retire after 43 years, Brenda shares some of the highlights of her career and how she plans to spend her retirement.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
No, for 4 and a half years I worked as a secretary in Purchasing and filled in when needed in shipping and receiving. I set up appointments for salespeople from different states, answered calls and typed letters. After my time in Purchasing I was offered a supervisor position in Emergency Department admitting from 3-11 p.m. I accepted the position, but the schedule didn’t work well for a mom of 3 teenagers, so I went back to working days as a patient service representative in admitting – the role I am retiring from.
What have your biggest contributions been while working here?
My biggest contributions have been doing my job in a professional manner, striving to be error free and treating families with a smile and a kind heart. I also make sure I listen to families, provide feedback and answer all their questions.
What has changed the most since you started here?
So many changes have occurred since I’ve been here, but a few stand out – the opening of the much-needed Burn Unit and the new Emergency Department in the Kay Jewelers Pavilion. When I drive by the hospital at night and it’s all lit up with love and warmth, I have a sense of pride that comes from working in such a loving and caring place that saves the lives of children.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
I get satisfaction from sending a child and their parents away with a smile on their faces and in their hearts. Knowing what so many of these families are going through, it feels good to make them smile.
What’s your most memorable and/or happiest moment at Akron Children’s?
When I worked in surgery, I touched a lot of people. One special memory is of a young lady who had a disease that affected her ability to walk. I spoke with her mother and grandmother about a doctor I believed could help provide corrective surgery. They came back to show me that as a result of my suggestion this girl could now walk. Just recently they brought me a special blanket they had made for me.
Where did you make your home while working at Akron Children’s?
My late husband, Ned, and I made our home in Akron. We bought our home where we resided together for 47 years after he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after serving in the Vietnam War. We raised our 3 children – Lisa, Steven and Tonya – there. A beautiful story unfolded in that home – through the Lord’s grace we built our home up when many others were leaving the neighborhood.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
Relaxing and enjoying my home-away-from-home in Florida. My perfect day would consist of a great night’s sleep, shopping, swimming, lying on the beach, a massage and a nice meal. I also like to sew and do 1,000- and 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzles.
What music do you like?
I love listening to jazz and spiritual music. It soothes my body and soul.
Last book you read?
The Bible. My favorite books are Psalms, Proverbs and Galatians.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
My advice is to embrace the opportunity that has been provided, take notes and make sure you have all the tools you need to do your job.