The Valdosta Daily Times
Having a heart for volunteer work is not a characteristic found in many people. For Cecil Vincent, volunteering is more than just a characteristic, it is his entire character.
For 17 years, Vincent has served as a volunteer at South Georgia Medical Center, first serving as a hospice volunteer and now driving the Courtesy Cart, shuttle carts that carry patients and visitors from the parking areas to the hospital’s front door.
A personal tragedy, the death of his first wife, lead to Vincent’s original desire to serve.
“She was in hospice care here (at SGMC.) I saw how the volunteers worked with the patients and I decided to volunteer after she passed,” said Vincent.
He volunteered with hospice for years until the Langdale Hospice House opened.
Shortly after beginning his volunteer work, Vincent’s life took another sharp turn. While working putting posts out on his farm land, Vincent was involved in a tractor accident, causing him to lose his right arm.
“There was no one within yelling distance and so I just sat down thinking that it was my time to go. But then it was like God tapped me on the head and said ‘Cecil, you have a phone right on your side.’ So I called 911 and about 25 minutes later they showed up. It was like the Lord said it wasn’t my time yet. I am still here and I am still giving,” said Vincent.
At 75 years old, Vincent hasn’t let his age or his missing arm slow him down from volunteering. He continues to drive the shuttle carts every week and loves every minute of it.
“I started doing this because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help people in need. Now I get to help a lot of people. When I get to help someone who can’t walk very well, I know that God is using me,” Vincent explained.
Vincent loves the work and loves the people. He admits that sometimes it can get boring and that a lot of the time you are by yourself, but he truly enjoys it.
“It’s not a glamorous job, but I wasn’t looking for a glamorous job. I just like being able to help people. That’s what keeps me coming back.”
Throughout the 17 years he has served, Vincent has met hundreds of people. He has many memories, though he isn’t able to pick specific favorites.
“There are so many great people I meet. Like last Tuesday, there was a young lady getting out of her car at the far side of the parking lot. I drove by the first time and saw her unloading a wheelchair. I assumed she had brought her mother with her and drove back by to pick them up. When I pulled up, I asked her if they wanted a ride and she said that it was just her, that the wheelchair was for her. I was just wondering how she was going to push herself all that way, and told her I would give her a ride. She asked if I had room to put the wheelchair on the cart. I said that I would make room and I did. I don’t know how she would have made it that whole way,” Vincent recalled.
While Vincent loves helping people by giving them rides on the shuttle carts, he doesn’t let his service stop there.
“A lady came out of the lobby and sat down. She sat out there for almost an hour and a half waiting for her ride, so I went and asked her where her ride was. She said she didn’t know, so I told her to wait just a minute and I was going to go put my cart up and get my truck since my shift was over and I would give her a ride. She kept saying that she didn’t want to put me out, but I told her that I wanted to make sure she made it home. She lived out past Moody Air Force Base, so we got a chance to talk. Turns out I knew her family and her neighbors. When we got to her house, she reached for her purse to pay me and I said ‘Don’t reach for that.’ I am just happy that I was there and thankful that I noticed her, because most people wouldn’t.’”
Aside from volunteering at SGMC, Vincent also enjoys volunteering with his church and is very active in his church life. He also watches out for his family, friends and grandkids and does a little fishing during his free time.
“My wife Alexis always says to everyone that I am the busiest man in town without a paycheck,” Vincent laughed.
Vincent also wants everyone to know, “This is a wonderful service and we could always use more people. I don’t understand why we can’t get more people. Most people tell me that they aren’t going to work for anyone for nothing. I just want everyone to know, if you are able, please don’t worry about the financial end of it, just get out and volunteer.”
Vincent doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. He continues to live his life and do all that he can.
“Everyone always says that I never let having one arm slow me down. I just say that you do what you have to do. I can’t sit around. I just can’t do that. Like I’ve always said, life goes on,”
SGMC can always use more Courtesy Cart drivers. If anyone is interested or would like more information on volunteering, please contact SGMC’s Patient Relations and Volunteer Services department at (229) 259-4412.