In the coming days, the patients and staff at NHC Healthcare will say goodbye to a beloved volunteer as he makes his way south for the next chapter of his life.
Reggie Riddle, a longtime Tullahoma resident and former AEDC employee, has spent the last year or so bringing smiles to everyone at the nursing care facility and rehab center as a post-retirement volunteer with both NHC and Compassus, but he will take his leave of Tullahoma shortly in order to embark on a new journey to Florida with his wife.
At a going-away party held in Riddle’s honor on Wednesday, patients and staff members of NHC and Compassus were able to thank Riddle for all he’s done over the last year and to wish him well on his next adventure.
Riddle was given presents, plenty of hugs and heaps of praise for his work with the numerous patients he’s been able to help over the last year.
According to Compassus Volunteer Coordinator Julia Logan-Mayes, Riddle has been an invaluable asset to her volunteer team and to NHC, helping both patients and staff members alike bring quality care to those in nursing facilities.
“He’s just made a huge difference in so many people’s lives,” Logan-Mayes said. “That’s a pretty incredible thing to offer, just the selfless act of time and what you choose to do with it.”
From the administrative and medical staff at NHC to patients and friends, Riddle was congratulated on his next steps and thanked for all the help he had bestowed upon the facility and its residents.
Riddle, however, would argue he’s just doing what he was born to do.
“I’m just another guy,” he said.
History of helping
Riddle grew up watching his family take care of others, including each other. His mother was a frequent caregiver, Riddle said, and once she passed away, he took up the task of caring for an older brother, which led him to volunteering in various nursing care facilities.
His brother stayed in a nursing care facility for four and a half years, according to Riddle, during which time he would help both his brother and others at the facility.
“I did what I could for him,” Riddle said. “I was 300 miles away, but I made numerous visits and stayed for a week [many times].”
While visiting his brother at the facility, Riddle began helping other patients and staff members during periods where his brother’s needs were being met by the staff.
“When he didn’t need my help I could help other people,” he said, “which would bring my joy, helping people and helping those who help people.”
That yen to help stayed with him throughout his career as a project engineer on Arnold Air Force Base for nearly 40 years.
“As soon as I retired, I decided I would start working at a nursing care facility,” he said.
Shortly after retirement, he ran into a friend who was working with Compassus in town, which opened another door to Riddle.
“Any time you’re helping people that deserve better, it’s an incredible blessing,” he said, “and that kind of floats my boat.”
Helping people only brings good, according to Riddle.
“The more you can do for folks, the more blessings you receive,” he said.
‘It’s family for me’
Making the decision to move to Florida is not without its sorrows for Riddle and Logan-Mayes, though both know he will continue to make a difference wherever he is.
When asked what he’ll miss the most about the community here, Riddle said leaving his patients was akin to leaving “a place where family is to go to some remote place and start over.
“It’s family for me,” he said of his NHC and Compassus patients.
“There’s something special about Middle Tennessee and the people here,” he said. “No one shies away from eye contact, and everyone talks to you like they’ve known you forever, so I’ll miss being where I consider ‘my people.’”
Logan-Mayes echoed Riddle’s family sentiments, saying Riddle’s willingness to help is almost unparalleled.
“He’s always one … that is always so willing to help, and if he can make it happen, he’s going to make it happen, no matter if it’s here in Tullahoma or in one of our surrounding counties that we service,” she said. “I just hate to see him go, but I know that he’ll have a wonderful life where he’s going, and I know that the people that he’s going to come in contact with will be so blessed by what he’s going to do and bringing to the community that he’s living in.”
Logan-Mayes was adamant that no matter where Riddle ends up, he will certainly help the people he meets there.
“He’ll find something – some place to volunteer that will make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Riddle agreed, saying his plan was “to do as much as I can wherever I go.”
“I look forward to the challenge of making folks in Florida, regardless of where they come from, my people,” he said.
Find your calling
No matter where anyone lives, Riddle said he hopes his story would help others discover their true calling in life – particularly those in retirement.
“We all have something to do,” he said.
Riddle has found new purpose in assisting those in nursing care facilities.
“When I walked into NHC for the first time to actually visit someone, I just had one of those moments where you say, ‘This is bigger than just visiting my friend – this is a message that this may be what I do in retirement,’” he said. “I knew very clearly what my purpose was when I visited this way and when I got to Compassus.”
By sharing his love of helping others, Riddle said he hoped to inspire other people – those in retirement or not – to follow the same path.
“If any of this wakes people up to what they were created to do, then it’s worth it,” he said. “Everybody needs to know why they were created. What’s their purpose?”
He also joked that his reasons were purely “selfish” in nature – he didn’t do it for the party he received on Wednesday.
“I just came to help patients and to help those who help patients,” he said. “I didn’t do it for the cake.”
Logan-Mayes also hoped that more men would volunteer with Compassus or NHC, though she felt Riddle deserved more of the focus.
“He says he’s just a regular guy, but the fact of the matter is he’s not,” she said. “I don’t get many men walking through the door wanting to be a volunteer.”
Having a male volunteer be so willing to help, she said, was “unusual,” so she wanted to make sure to give him credit where it’s due and “highlight someone who … [is willing] to do something and get involved so heavily and … connect with people and make a difference in their lives.”
If you want to help
For those looking to help those in hospice care or nursing facilities, you can visit the Compassus website at www.compassus.com/volunteers or call Logan-Mayes at 455-9118. Compassus is located at 1805 N. Jackson St., Suite 11.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.