Nellie Tew

On a rainy Wednesday morning, Nellie Tew sits at the information desk located at the entrance of Harbin Clinic (1825 Martha Berry Boulevard, Rome).

People regularly approach her desk, asking the usual questions: ‘Where is the office of Dr. Gonzalez of Internal Medicine Rome located?’ etc… but Tew doesn’t miss a beat to explain, ‘On the second floor. When you get off the elevator, turn left and go straight.’

Tew also doesn’t hesitate when a patient mistakenly shows up to the wrong Harbin Clinic location. First, asking where the patient is parked, she explains the quickest way to get from one building to the other, including how many traffic lights they’ll go through as well as all the turns.

Handing them a map and circling their route, it’s obvious that Tew not only knows the nooks and crannies of the 1825 building by heart, but also every other Harbin Clinic building throughout Rome.

At eighty-nine years young, she has been volunteering at Harbin for around 12 years.

“I make friends with so many people,” says Tew. “I try to make eye contact with everybody and speak to them when they walk in, to help them have a more positive experience at Harbin.”

The act of volunteering, she says, impacts her own health in a positive way.

“It keeps me alert and motivated,” she says. “I’m a people person; I have been all my life.”

Nellie Tew is one of more than 60 volunteers at Harbin Clinic. With warm, friendly greetings, the volunteer staff members are always eager to assist patients in any way they can.

Sue Ingram, 74, also volunteers at Harbin Clinic and says getting out, helping others and being social helps her mentally and physically.

“It keeps you going,” says Ingram. “I don’t know what I would do if I had to stay home all of the time.”

The truth is, there are proven health benefits to volunteering, especially for senior citizens. It can increase self-esteem, expand
your social life, increase physical activity, help lower stress and contribute to brain health.

“Being social and continuing to work keeps your mind healthy and can serve as prevention for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. John-Scott Carroll, a physician at Harbin Clinic Family Medicine Rome. “It’s also a great protective factor against depression and loneliness.”

Dr. Carroll also mentions that volunteering can give senior citizens more energy and physical activity, which in turn eases stiffness and helps to keep the body moving.

“There’s also a sense of feeling young and able, and it’s healthy to keep being active in the community. That goes a long way towards overall wellness,” says Dr. Carroll.

Harbin’s Top Priority 

After retiring from her 23-year career as a branch manager with the Coosa Valley Credit Union, Helen Clonts didn’t want to sit idle. So, she began volunteering at the Harbin Clinic Cancer Center, where she has been volunteering for five years. 

“In my old job, I was constantly involved with the public, and I didn’t want to stop being useful and helpful,” explains Clonts. “I decided there were other ways I could serve people.” 

Clonts, who is 72, describes herself as the “Wednesday Girl” at the Cancer Center. She works on the second floor in medical oncology on Wednesday mornings and downstairs at the information desk on Wednesday afternoons.

“I absolutely love what I do,” she raves. “It’s such a caring and compassionate environment; the doctors, nurses and the whole staff are just great. When I’m working at the front desk, I want people to know the moment they walk through that door that they are Harbin’s top priority. They’ll receive the best care in Northwest Georgia, as far as I’m concerned.”

Clonts also encourages other people her age to try their hand at volunteering, for their heart and their health.

“It does you so much good,” she smiles. “A lot of people who pass through might not have had a smile in days, and we can change that. If you have spare time and want to try volunteering, there’s a place for you at Harbin.” 

If you’re interested in volunteering at Harbin Clinic, please visit