Maria Strmsek Retires

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Maria Strmsek Retires

Harneet Arora, Copy Editor

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After its establishment in 1975, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital has grown to become a well-known hospital in the Santa Clarita area. With many arriving seeking medical attention, the extensive hospital staff serves hundreds of patients on a daily basis. Doctors and nurses spend hours on end working to treat ill patients.

Because Henry Mayo is a non-profit hospital, it relies tremendously on the help of volunteers. With over 300 volunteers ranging in age from teens to seniors, the hospital has relied on the help of one caring member of the Santa Clarita community to manage the continuous flow of volunteers. With over 27 years of experience as Director of Volunteer Services, Maria Strmsek has decided to retire.

“I started in hospitals a long time ago, in 1974,” said Strmsek. “I had to find a job, and I moved through the system at Santa Monica Hospital. I was there for 17 years. I kind of moved through several departments and fell into volunteer services because my former boss became the director and we worked well together so I went over there for her, and I just felt that it was a great fit for me.”

Meeting with Strmsek was truly a pleasure, with her jubilant and caring personality spewing from every word she spoke. Being involved with the healthcare system for a long time, Strmsek has always felt a strong passion for helping others. Outside the hospital, she has collaborated with other nonprofits and schools and worked to help students find other outlets for volunteer opportunities. But within the hospital community, she has had numerous impacts, helping organize the teddy bear drive being one of her major accomplishments.

“The teddy bear drive originated because I found out that the Assistance League was giving teddy bears to the hospital, but they couldn’t maintain the quantity of children’s needs,” said Strmsek. “In Teddy Roosevelt’s honor, they started Teddy Bear Day and the first one came one day in September. One of the ladies who’s son had received a teddy bear said she would really like to get involved next year so we changed it to April and she got involved with me and it just kinda blossomed. So this is the sixth year we’ve done it now. It’s an easy drive because you’re not asking for money, you’re asking for something someone can relate to.”

With such a fondness of people, it was no surprise that Strmsek originally sought a career in counseling. While working for the hospital, she was driven to finish her education in psychology.

“I got my bachelors degree in psychology while I was working, so I was able to finish my education. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve got a lot more confidence over the years.

I wanted to be a social worker or a therapist because I could get people to talk, so I really thought I could relate empathetically. There is a lot of need out there and a lot of grief that goes on in people’s lives that they don’t share and most people are pretty comfortable with me. They will share and if I can help them in some way by giving them resources, a hand, a tissue, it makes me feel like it’s okay to be in this world and have a purpose.”

Over the past 27 years, Strmsek has definitely had numerous memorable experiences, some rewarding and some challenging. Having worked at the hospital through bankruptcy and an earthquake, Maria remembers a select few individuals who have shaped her into the courageous woman she is today.

My mom and I had a love hate relationship for many many years and it wasn’t until later that I really learned a lot about why I loved my mother,” said Strmsek. “My mother lived through two wars. My mother brought be out of a communist country and brought us over here with hardly anything. We were immigrants, and she worked her life even when her passion was music. I remember that because she was Italian, she was very loud and she used to embarrass me; she was very musical and very bright and colorful. It wasn’t until after she passed away that I realized she gave me the color of my life; she gave me the courage to do the things I’ve done in my life. I realized how much I wouldn’t be the person I was today, with the passion and the heart I feel for things if it wasn’t for her. Its amazing the gifts your parents give you. Im very courageous in some ways, and I have a really big heart and I know that all those things come from her.”

Despite her  undeniable passion for her job, Strmsek looks forward to the many freedoms of retirement.

“I started doing art, and I really want to take art classes so I will finally have a chance to do that during the day. I want to volunteer somewhere, but I haven’t quite figured out where yet. I have my two dogs; one of them is crazy so I have to work with her and I want to spend time with friends like go out to dinner once in a while, but its different. Some of my friends have retired now, and I want to spend quality time with them. I’ll be busy.”

With a unique past and many years of experience under her belt, Strmsek offers some words of advice to young high school and college students on future career choices.

“I hope that whatever you decide to do with your lives, do it because you love it. The one thing that is hard when people don’t like their jobs is getting up everyday and going to that particular job. You don’t want to do that ‘cause you spend so much of your life at that job, even more time than you do at home. It has to be something you have the most gratification for. I would encourage people to do is to know that whatever drive you have, it doesn’t have to be for the rest of your life, but it has to be something that you’re really passionate about. You’ve got to know you’re going to love it.”

I’d like to thank Maria for her service to the Santa Clarita Community, and I wish her many years of happiness in her retirement.

 

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