Volunteer Jose Martinez stands behind a computer at an information desk at Riverside Medical Center.
Jose Martinez, 90, stands behind a computer at one of the information desks at Riverside Medical Center ready to help patients and visitors find their way around. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

Overview

April is National Volunteer Month, and TN News is highlighting the contributions of volunteers making a difference in Riverside County.

If you’ve ever been to Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, odds are you’ve met volunteer Jose Martinez.

The 90-year-old is hard to miss at the information desk where he greets, directs and supports visitors and patients arriving at the hospital. He is also known to personally escort people to make sure they get where they need to go.

“It’s good to have a friendly face where they can go and ask questions, especially with all our construction going on,” Luz Soto, director of volunteer services, said. “I feel like there’s a lot of our members who are concerned, they’re frustrated with parking, they’re frustrated with our construction, but having a friendly volunteer face that they can go to and ask a question, I think that that’s amazing to have, and Jose has those qualities and more.” 

But this is just the latest volunteer role for Martinez, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1963.

“As a Catholic person, I like to do something for somebody,” Martinez recently told TN News. “I like to be helping somebody, it’s what I enjoy.”

Martinez started volunteering with Kaiser Permanente in 2019 shortly after retiring from Riverside Unified School District where he worked for 27 years. Before joining the district as an employee, he was a volunteer at the Riverside Adult School. He took on that role after the General Motors assembly plant in Van Nuys, where he had worked for 30 years, closed.

“When they closed the plant, I moved to Riverside, because my two daughters were living in Riverside, then I started working in the school district in the same year,” he said. “So I moved over here, then a few days later I was working as a volunteer in the adult school on Magnolia Avenue.”

Volunteer Jose Martinez, 90, stands ready to help at one of the information desks inside Riverside Medical Center. The little blue book, which he made himself, contains all of the information he needs to direct people, though he rarely needs it. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

After a few months of volunteering, the principal asked Martinez if he would like a job with the district, to which he said yes. After retiring, he started volunteering with the Salvation Army and the Riverside Food Bank. However, neither of those volunteer opportunities allowed him to interact with the community.

“I prefer this one to the others that I worked before, because I have more contact with the public, with the people,” he said. “So I enjoy it. I have been happy with what I do. I don’t think [of it like] I’m going into work, I think it’s like a hobby for me.”

And it’s turned into a hobby that has helped not only countless people visiting the hospital, but also those working there as well.

“A lot of times we find our volunteers helping our staff and taking that weight off our staff, because our staff also needs some help too, you know,” Soto said.

Aside from volunteering at the hospital, Martinez said he likes taking walks, dancing and baseball, though he admits with a laugh, “but I cannot play baseball.”

Ultimately, Martinez said continuing to volunteer has allowed him to keep his mind and body sharp.

“I told a friend in Cuba, we were in our teenage years, and I said in the conversation, ‘I like to work,’” Martinez said. “He said, ‘No, don’t tell me that. Nobody likes to work.’ Seventy or 80 years later, I’m still saying I like to work.”

If you’re interested in volunteering with Kaiser Permanente, there are opportunities all year for those 18 and older. For those under the age of 18, there are summer volunteer opportunities with an application process that opens up every January.

“What’s little known is that Kaiser Permanente hospitals are nonprofits, and that is one of the reasons we’re able to have volunteers in the hospitals,” Anamaria Bearden, senior director for public affairs and brand communications, said. “It really helps out in situations like our information desk where volunteers are really necessary, just to help people get from point A to point B.”

You can find out more information about Kaiser Permanente’s volunteer opportunities in Riverside County here.

As for Martinez, he can be found at Riverside Medical Center every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday helping people find their way with a smile.

“Jose is a star volunteer,” Soto said.

April is National Volunteer Month, and TN News would love to highlight the contributions from volunteers making a difference in Riverside County. Know of a person we should recognize? Email publisher Alicia Ramirez at Alicia.Ramirez@RiversideRecord.org.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.