Charlie and Karol Pitts

Charlie and Karol Pitts

Charlie and Karol Pitts

Charlie Pitts could think of no better way to honor the memory of his wife than by giving a gift to the place that meant so much to her in life. For 30 years, Karol Pitts served as a valued volunteer in the Mount Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department.

When the Pitts and their four children — Tim, Kelley, Kerrie andKim — moved to State College in 1978, it was for Charlie’s new position as the head of Penn State’s entomology department. The following year, looking for work of her own, Karol took a full-time job as a switchboard operator at the Medical Center, then known as Centre Community Hospital. It was also during that time that Karol began volunteering in the emergency room at the hospital. Always one to help others, she quickly fell in love with the hustle and bustle of the ER and found a place where she felt she could make a difference. Whether answering phones, escorting patients to an examination area or consoling an anxious child, Karol was soon considered an integral part of the department, even attending staff birthday and holiday parties.

“Karol was absolutely one of the best ED volunteers that we have ever had. What a sweet, funny, strong, smiling and energetic person,” shares Theodore Ziff, MD, FACEP, medical director of emergency services, emergency department, Mount Nittany Medical Center. “It was always a pleasure to have her in our ED. We miss her.”

In 1988, when Charlie stepped down as department head, he and Karol moved to Africa for a period of three years. Charlie recalls what an amazing experience the trip was, reminiscing about the locals and the delectable foods that were part of their adventure. Still, the Pitts considered State College their home and cheerfully returned there in 1991, and Charlie continued working for the university. Ready to get back to volunteering, Karol picked up where she left off in the emergency department. That same year, she heard about the new Mount Nittany Medical Center Golf Classic and cheerfully lent her talents to the fundraiser as its first volunteer coordinator, a post she held for nearly a decade, in addition to serving on the planning committee for the event. Over the years, she and Charlie both volunteered at the Golf Classic, as did Kelley, Kerrie and Kim.

In more recent years, both Charlie and Karol were instrumental in spearheading the fundraising initiative for the Volunteer Scholarship Award for Mount NittanyHealth, a project that Charlie is currently involved in with Mount Nittany Health Foundation, as they work to have the scholarship endowed. Each year, the health system’s Volunteer Recognition Luncheon honors one graduating high school student who has completed a minimum of 200 hours of distinguished volunteer service with Mount Nittany Health and plans to pursue a career in healthcare from an accredited institution.

In January 2016, Karol Pitts passed away at the Medical Center. Shortly after her death, Charlie proposed naming a room in the emergency department in Karol’s memory. With coordination help from the Foundation, Charlie gave a generous gift to name the B1 trauma room in the emergency department after his beloved wife.

“The Medical Center was Karol’s true passion,” says Charlie. “We both reveled in watching it grow from a tiny community hospital to the impressive health system that it is today.” Indeed, the Pitts witnessed major construction projects, including the 1989 expansion of the emergency room to the emergency department and its additional expansions and renovations in 1993 and 2013.

In February, around 10 of Karol’s friends and family — including Charlie and his children — gathered at the emergency department to dedicate the room and pay homage to the remarkable woman who gave more than 30 years and 10,000 hours of volunteer time to an organization that will long appreciate her contributions. Now, a special place in her beloved emergency department bears her name.

Above: Karol and Charlie volunteer at the Mount Nittany Health Golf Classic (photo courtesy of Chuck Carroll).

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