Janice started volunteering at Children’s Medical Center in 1968, just one month after her 5-year-old daughter, Laurie, died from leukemia.
She has since logged 18,800 hours, making her one of the longest-serving volunteers in Children’s Health history. More recently, her husband, Ernie, has become as familiar to the staff and patients at Children’s as is his wife. In the last 16 years, he has logged 3,600 hours himself.
In honor of their commitment to helping others, their children, led by one of their sons, Steve Holmes, and his wife, Anne, have given $250,000 to Children’s Medical Center Foundation to establish the Janice and Ernie Holmes Endowment for Child Life, in Memory of Laura Ellen Holmes.
“We didn’t say anything at first,” Janice said, recalling how her son and daughter-inlaw surprised them with the news of the gift at a family Christmas celebration. “We were flabbergasted; completely overwhelmed. It is just fantastic.”
“This is my life – volunteering at Children’s is what saved my life. There’s no place I would rather be.”
– Janice Holmes
Honors from many organizations have marked the years of volunteering for Janice. In 1999, she was one of 10 in Dallas County to receive the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award. In September 2002 – one year after 9/11 – she received the Everyday Hero award from the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, the U.S. Postal Service, the Thanks- Giving Square Foundation, NBC 5, and the city and county of Dallas. In 2006, she was named a Healthcare Hero by the Dallas Business Journal.
But for Janice, now 78, her reason for showing up at Children’s three days a week for nearly 50 years is not about the accolades. “This is my life – volunteering at Children’s is what saved my life. There’s no place I would rather be.”
The daughter of an El Paso doctor, Janice grew up “trailing after my dad. My mother had multiple sclerosis, so I was used to being around hospitals and medical personnel.”
She and Ernie, who just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, met at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth.
“My name was Holt, so he sat right in front of me,” she said. “He was so shy. I would say, ‘Hi,’ and he would dive into his locker.”
Ernie tells a different story: “She harassed me.”
They married after high school and lived with Janice’s dad while Ernie worked toward an electrical engineering degree. Over the years, their family grew. Sam is now a pediatrician in Missouri; David is an architect; Steve’s career has been in the movie industry; Julie helps her husband run a freight-handling business; Laurie was their fifth child; and their last child, Carrie, was adopted a few years after Laurie’s death.
“Never did I think back in 1968 that Children’s would become such an important part of my life and life of my family.”
– Janice Holmes
Ernie worked for Texas Instruments for 21 years, then managed technical documentation for another company for a time, before retiring at 62.
“Janice volunteered me to volunteer at Children’s,” said Ernie, who comes to the hospital two days a week from their home in Fort Worth. One day he works in OR supply and cycle count Omnicells, and the second day he works in day surgery. Janice now works in the recovery room, but her first stints were in the oncology clinic, then the pharmacy. Over the years she has also made hundreds of blankets for children brought to the hospital by Child Protective Services, and she has crafted numerous banners for the chapel.
“We enjoy it,” Ernie said. “We get more out of it than we give.”
Their dedication to Children’s has spilled over to their family. Their eldest son, Sam, was inspired to become a doctor after volunteering during high school, and he met his wife at Children’s. Many of their 14 grandchildren help wrap presents for patients at Christmastime. Their seven great-grandchildren will be in training soon enough. Daughter-in-law Anne has been volunteering at the hospital for the last four years. Two days a week, she can be found babysitting or taking calls at the volunteer desk.
“I feel like I’m doing something to help someone else,” Anne said. “It puts your own life in perspective. It also helps the nurses, who are absolutely awesome, amazing people.”
So when her husband, Steve, recently sold his movie theater business, Starplex Cinemas, to AMC Theatres, they wanted to honor Janice and Ernie with a gift to Child Life, which depends on the generosity of others to provide services that are of great healing power for young patients but for which insurance programs and government will not pay – programs such as music, art and pet therapy, or Funnyatrics clowns who lift the spirits of sick children.
“There are many best things I have gotten out of my experiences as a volunteer at Children’s,” Janice wrote in a chronology of her years at Children’s. “But hearing a parent say that their child was saved or their life improved is the greatest feeling that any of us can experience. Never did I think back in 1968 that Children’s would become such an important part of my life and life of my family.”
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