Dedicated to Service: Bill Loftus
From the Hospice of Scotland County July 2012 Newsletter
At first, Dr. Bill Loftus thought he misunderstood what he'd just heard. Either that, or someone was pulling a mighty big prank on him.
"I actually hung up the phone and thought I hadn't heard the conversation properly," says Loftus.
What he had been told by Hospice CEO Jane Murray floored him: Loftus had been selected for not one, but two prestigious awards from the office of North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue. The 2012 Governor's Award for Volunteer Service recognizes individuals in each of the state's 100 counties for their uncommon commitment to community service. Loftus won the award in the Lifetime Achievement category. Even more stunning to Loftus was that he had been chosen for a second honor, The Medallion Award, the state's highest level of volunteer recognition. Only 20 people out of the state's top volunteers are chosen each year to receive The Medallion Award, and only four received the award in the Lifetime Achievement category.
"I had no clue that I'd even been nominated," says Loftus.
But his nomination and selection for such an honor shouldn't have been a surprise to Loftus, and it wasn't a surprise to the staff at Hospice of Scotland County who have worked closely with him as a member of the organization's Board of Trustees since 2006. Since coming to St. Andrews Presbyterian College (now University) in 1974, Loftus has immersed himself in the local community. And as it turns out, his passion for serving others has roots that trace all the way back to his childhood in Pennsylvania.
"Always Something to Give"
Ellen Loftus made a lasting impression on her son from an early age with her strong work ethic, and commitment to give back to her local community.
"A lot of the influence that steered me towards volunteering came from my mother," Loftus recalls. "She always worked, and as she got older, she cut back on paid work. But she filled in that new 'free' time with volunteering." In addition to learning about the value of volunteerism, Loftus says he learned something else about it from his mother's example.
"What I learned from her---without even realizing it at the time---and what I have learned through my own experience, is that a person always has something to give. And you can do it without turning your life upside down."
When he came to Laurinburg and St. Andrews as a French professor in 1974, Loftus began to seek out ways he could contribute his time and talents to worthy causes. His first volunteer work was with the Scotland Arts Council and the Scotland Concerts Committee in the late 1970s. Later, he spent six years as a fundraising division chair for the United Way.
He also supported the public school system by serving on the Scotland High School Job Ready Partnership Council, and as Chair of the Business/Education Partnership Steering Committee. Always an advocate for education, he played a leading role on a citizen committee in 1996 that worked to gain passage of a multi-million dollar school bond referendum in Scotland County. From 1997 to 2008, he volunteered in a variety of roles at the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce, leading the Chamber's re-accreditation efforts in 1997-1998 and 2003. He served on the Chamber board from 2001-2006, serving as Chairman of the Board in 2005.
"One thing you start to realize is that you can help people in many different ways," says Loftus. "You can help make lunches for people who are building Habitat houses, or you can help set up cones for the Bike-to-Build course, or help out in all kinds of simple ways. Long-term commitments are wonderful but are not necessary. Once you realize that, it opens up a whole wide range of possibilities that weren't there before."
"Ways to do God's work"
In 2006, Loftus expanded his own volunteer work by joining the board at Hospice of Scotland County. He says it was a natural outgrowth of his desire to volunteer with a cause that serves a basic human need.
"There are all kinds of ways to do God's work in the world," says Loftus. "But there are certain basic things --- what are called the Corporal Works of Mercy, like feeding the hungry, tending the sick, and sheltering the homeless---that are particularly important to me. And because of that, I felt a special affection for Hospice and its mission as a not-for-profit organization to provide high quality and compassionate care for people at the end of life."
Since joining the Hospice board, he has held leadership positions throughout his tenure. He served a two-year term as Vice Chairman from 2007 to 2009 before serving as Chairman from 2009 to 2011. He has served as chair of the Finance and Public Relations committees of the board, and led the Executive Committee's efforts to establish the new palliative care program which began in January.
Hospice CEO Jane Murray nominated Loftus for the volunteer service awards, and says he epitomizes what it means to be a lifetime volunteer.
"Dr. Loftus has spent his whole life in service to others, so it's very appropriate that he was chosen for these honors," says Murray. "He is passionate about all the causes he supports, and at Hospice, he is an inspiration to staff and volunteers alike. He gives freely of his time and talents to us, and is constantly championing the cause of Hospice to the broader community."
Loftus says he is humbled by the awards, and notes that, when many people volunteer as and when they are able, great things can be accomplished.
"Because Hospice nominated me for this, it is even more special," he says. "There are many other people who could have earned these accolades. When you look around Scotland County, I think we would all be overwhelmed at the number of people who enrich the life of this wonderful community by contributing a remarkable number of hours to a wide array of worthy organizations."
Loftus says it's easy for someone who's thinking about doing volunteer work to believe their contribution would be too small to make a difference. In fact, he remembers thinking that way himself early on in his volunteer journey.
"One of my favorite quotes is from President Teddy Roosevelt who said: 'Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.' I tell prospective volunteers, whether it be with Hospice or with any other organization, that what they do individually will add up. You don't have to turn your life upside down in order to be a volunteer. When a lot of folks just do what they can, with what they have, where they are, the results are stunning."
While he continues to devote full attention to his duties as Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness at St. Andrews, Loftus says he will continue giving back to the community now and into retirement.
"Volunteering would be a way to make sure there was always something meaningful and valuable in each day. I'm like a lot of folks---I want to do something meaningful on an ongoing basis, and 70 is the new 50!"
You won't likely hear him talking about the awards he's received, but Loftus says he hopes they will serve as an inspiration to others who are considering volunteer service.
"I never thought of myself as special, nor did I think of myself as devoting any great amount of time to volunteering. It just added up over the years. To my mind, this says that anybody could do this; everybody can make a difference for the better. I really think of myself as pretty ordinary, so if Loftus can do it, then anyone can do it."