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Whole Life Services man gift shop named after special volunteer

(Original story/photos by: Quinn Schwartz, Sharon Herald January 24, 2019)

From left, Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, Olive Thompson’s family members Joyce and Lisa Cartwright, and Sharon Regional Medical Center President Joe Hugar help cut the ribbon at Olive’s Place – the hospital’s new gift shop named for longtime hospital volunteer Olive Thompson. QUINN SCHWARTZ | Herald

Olive Thompson’s family describes their late aunt’s legacy as that of a dedicated entertainer. She excelled around people, and was never one to shy away from the spotlight.

“When you think of the Energizer Bunny, you think of Olive,” Thompson’s great-niece, Lisa Cartwright, said.

Thompson’s stage was the Sharon Regional Medical Center floor where she served as a volunteer for more than 50 years. Thompson passed away in 2018 at the age of 103, but her spotlight shined particularly bright Wednesday as family, friends and staff celebrated the opening of Olive’s Place Boutique and Gift Shop with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the hospital.

“She would be in her glory right now,” Thompson’s niece, Joyce Cartwright, said after the ceremony. “She would be loving every minute of this and talking to every person.”

In addition to her work with Sharon Regional, Thompson volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Shenango Valley Interfaith Ministries and Walking Club. She worked for 27 years as a teacher’s aide at the Mercer County Crippled Children’s Society and was a Buhl Day Honoree. She was even recognized by State Rep. Mark Longietti for being one of only six sets of twins in the country to reach more than 100 years of age. “She was a dynamo,” said Lisa DiMuccio-Zgela, director of marketing and community relations for Sharon Regional Medical Center. “She was a really special person.” Olive’s Place is located on the first floor of the hospital next to the cafeteria. It features locally made merchandise, as well as a variety of flower selections provided by Kraynaks of Hermitage.

Olive’s family, from left, Richard Gereb, nephew, Lisa Cartwright, great-niece, Don Gereb, nephew, Joyce Cartwright, niece, and Jessica Cartwright, great-great niece were on hand at Sharon Regional Medical Center Wednesday for the Olive’s Place ribbon cutting ceremony. QUINN SCHWARTZ | Herald

And it has a pretty special staff, too. The shop is operated by Whole Life Services, an organization that provides support and services for people with disabilities and their families. “It’s nice and cozy,” employee Thomas Chiappini said of the shop, which initially opened in October. “I just like volunteering and meeting people.”

Whole Life Services’ mission is to work with each person who seeks its support to help them become as independent as possible. The organization places emphasis on helping its members build relationships and allowing them to choose work in an area that reflects their passion. “We’re excited for (the Olive’s Place employees) to be able to show off their gifts and talents here,” Sharon Regional Medical Center President Joe Hugar said. “Honestly, I think they will be giving us more than we could ever give them.”

Olive’s place is staffed by Whole Life Services, an organization that provides support and services for people with disabilities and their families. Several staff members took an opportunity to share their excitement to be a part of Olive’s Place after the ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday. QUINN SCHWARTZ | Herald

Hugar lamented he never had the chance to meet Thompson in person, but said he knew how much she meant to the patients and staff at the hospital. “It has great meaning to everyone here,” he said. “We couldn’t be more excited.” Several Whole Life Service members working at Olive’s Place took turns on a microphone to express their gratitude for the opportunity to work at the shop.

“I love coming to work here,” Sheri Miller said. “And I love my friends and my staff.”

Thompson’s family said the partnership with Sharon Regional and Whole Life Services is the perfect complement to

their aunt’s memoriam. “It is a wonderful dedication,” Joyce Cartwright said. “There is no doubt she is looking down on us right now thinking how nice this is.”

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