The will to help others


Beatris Turner has a compassionate and loving heart and the will to help those in need whether it’s by volunteering at Shands at Alachua General Hospital or feeding the homeless or helping at the Old Jerusalem Baptist Church in Monteocha. Turner, a Gainesville resident and a volunteer at Shands at AGH for three years, helps patients in many ways, including delivering their mail, taking them flowers, running little errands, or just visiting, talking and comforting them.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 5:21 p.m.

Beatris Turner has a compassionate and loving heart and the will to help those in need whether it’s by volunteering at Shands at Alachua General Hospital or feeding the homeless or helping at the Old Jerusalem Baptist Church in Monteocha.

“You’d want Beatris on your team if you were experiencing an illness or a stressful situation,” said Constance Keeton, director for volunteer and community resources at Shands at AGH. “She has a very warm personality and is a soothing person to be around. She has a great smile.”

Turner, a Gainesville resident and a volunteer at Shands at AGH for three years, helps patients in many ways, including delivering their mail, taking them flowers, running little errands, or just visiting, talking and comforting them.

“She (Turner) works with patient services, delivers cards and flowers,” said Keeton. “She also works in the surgical waiting room. She is very involved with patients and patient’s families.”

“When they (seniors) are sick, we take them flowers to cheer them up,” said Turner, “and to let them know we’re thinking of them.”

From noon-4 p.m. on Mondays, Turner volunteers in the surgical waiting room. There, she answers the telephone, serves as a connection from the doctors to the patients, and lends a compassionate and listening ear to families who are worried because their loved ones are in surgery.

During a recent Monday, Turner was at her post at the surgical waiting room comforting Annie Williams, whose sister was having surgery.

“She (Turner) is my guardian angel,” said Williams. “She gives me good advice.”

Turner said she tries to be there to provide comfort and encouraging words to the patients’ families.

“Sometimes, just an encouraging word helps. I try to always smile,” said Turner. “When patients hear bad news, I want to be there and to help them.”

On the second Friday of each month, Turner, along with other members of Old Jerusalem Baptist Church, cook and feed the homeless at the St. Francis House.

“Church work is my No. 1 priority,” Turner said.

She also feeds people in the neighborhood who may be needy or who simply like her cooking.

“I always have a crowd around me,” said Turner. “I never turn anyone down. There are a lot of people that are less fortunate than me. I like to cook and share my cooking with people in the community.”

Turner has been married for 49 years to Nathaniel Turner, and they have three children, Lidell McGill, Nathaniel Turner III, and Van Turner, and seven grandchildren. In 1994, Turner retired from Shands, where she worked as a lab technician in the micro-biology department.

Turner, the seventh of 11 children born to Elizabeth and Elijah Gainey, was raised in Brooker and attended school in Alachua. At age 17, she moved to Gainesville.

Her hobbies are cooking and traveling, and she does a lot of both. Turner has traveled to Hawaii, Cancún and Cozumel, in Mexico, and New York. She also has traveled cross-country by train, with stops in New Orleans, Chicago, Denver, Utah and San Francisco.

Janet Jackson, one of Turner’s sisters, said Turner is a “busy retired lady.”

“She (Turner) does a lot of good things for people,” said Jackson. “She volunteers and also helps to take care of her grandchildren.”

For Turner, helping people is just the right thing to do.

“If I can give someone an encouraging word, it makes me happy,” said Turner. “I like helping people, and I can't do that by staying in the house. So, I volunteer.”

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