Friends of Strong volunteer Bud Wesley, of Bristol, was recognized with a 2019 Health Care Volunteer Achievement Award by the Rochester Business Journal.

Only a few weeks shy of an early retirement, Wesley found himself in an ICU waiting room with no one to talk to. His mother was a patient and he found camaraderie with the families of other patients who were on the same floor — many of which shared the sentiment that they wished there were hospital staff that could help them navigate their circumstances and pass the time.

It was then that Wesley decided to fulfil those wishes. Not having any firm plans of what to do with his newly earned time, he became a Friends of Strong Memorial Hospital volunteer, offering the services he and those other families wished were available while they were sitting in the waiting room.

Wesley, 76, discharges patients in the mornings before bringing a coffee cart to the intensive care units, providing comfort to families who find themselves in difficult circumstances.

Just about every Wednesday and Thursday for the past 24 years, he’s provided an open ear to patients and families in need of someone to talk with, and passed out coffee, tea, snacks and other comfort items.

“It’s a real blessing to be able to make things a little easier for families who are under stress or facing hard things,” he said. “I guess I maybe have that grandfatherly thing. Sometimes it’s just to listen, sometimes it’s a shoulder to cry on and sometimes it’s to break up family feuds.”

Wesley understands the patient perspective and provides a level of reassurance that’s unique from that of clinical staff.

“Bud’s service provides a personal touch in what can be a very busy environment for patients and their families,” said Sandy Arbasak, director of the Friends of Strong. “His positive, humble demeanor makes him a favorite of patients and staff alike.”

Wesley has volunteered for more than 15,000 hours at Strong since 1995. He previously served as a firefighter and volunteers with his hometown fire department.

“Throughout the years, Bud continues to be a fixture within our adult ICUs,” said Mike Apostolakos, chief medical officer and vice president of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “I’ve witnessed his caring and comforting support to our patients and their families firsthand on countless occasions and, without a doubt, Bud’s regular visits with coffee and treats to the families of our most critically ill patients is invaluable.”

“Bud’s dedication to serving our community is simply amazing,” Arbasak said. “His kindness, loyalty and commitment to our patients and their families is unwavering, and we can only imagine how many lives he’s touched over the years.”