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Marjorie Webster has a heart of service and a spirit of volunteerism that spans 39 years at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Webster is the first recipient of the Sheryl K. Nienhuis Memorial Volunteer Service Award, and she is the hospital’s longest-serving, active volunteer.
As the hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary, Webster’s diligence provides a unique perspective on service to St. Jude in the early days.
When Webster’s husband, world-renowned virologist and influenza expert Robert Webster, PhD, was recruited to St. Jude in 1968, Marjorie got involved in outreach activities related to St. Jude, most notably community nutrition screenings. The hospital’s nascent General Pediatrics Clinic, in partnership with a group called MAP-South (Memphis Area Project South), offered food supplements and medical checkups to impoverished families during this time.
“I took my then 4-year-old with me when I interviewed mothers who were getting food vouchers through the MAP-South program. I also visited a couple schools to see what the children were eating for breakfast,” Webster recalls.
In 1972, the St. Jude Wives’ Club was established as the hospital’s second volunteer program. Webster joined that group as a founding member and helped with holiday decorations, quilting, gift-wrapping, garage sales and other projects. She cultivated lasting relationships with wives of other St. Jude faculty and staff and supported her husband’s work in virology.
“I worked in the linen room in the star-shaped building sewing buttons on faculty lab coats and mending patients’ pajamas,” she said. “My husband was recruiting postdocs for his department during this time, and many were from China and Japan. I helped them obtain their driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and utilities for their apartments.”
Webster has held several leadership roles within the St. Jude Wives’ Club (now the St. Jude Women’s Club) and the Ladies of St. Jude. She remains active by assisting with the birthday celebration of St. Jude founder, Danny Thomas; the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway; and the annual book sale.
Throughout the years, Webster has remained steadfast and passionate about St. Jude. “Volunteering shows that you have a kindred spirit with the hospital, that you want to help with its mission. Every little piece you do adds up to something,” she says. “I don’t feel any job is too small or too unimportant for me to do.”