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Giving the Gift of Time: 22 Years and Counting

Auxiliary member Mabel Godfrey with bouquet of flowers
Phelps Health volunteer Mabel Godfrey loves seeing the merchandise that comes into The Lily Pad Gift Shop.

Published on December 8, 2022

Read Time: 4 Minutes

At age 91, Mabel Godfrey is now in her 22nd year of volunteering at The Phelps Health Lily Pad Gift Shop. You can find the longtime Rolla resident there like clockwork on Thursday mornings and on Saturdays.

“I especially enjoy volunteering on Saturdays,” Mabel said. “This way, employees who work the weekends also have a chance to shop at our gift shop.”

In fact, Mabel has a following of sorts.

“She has her regulars on Saturdays, people who come in just to see her,” said Deanna Brown, gift shop merchandiser at Phelps Health. “We love having her here.”

Auxiliary Volunteer Mabel Godfrey with Gift Shop Merchandiser Deanna Brown
Phelps Health Gift Shop Merchandiser Deanna Brown, right, appreciates volunteer Mabel Godfrey’s gift of time and service to The Lily Pad Gift Shop.


Mabel has called Rolla home now for 52 years, but before putting her roots down in south-central Missouri, she called 18 different places “home.” Mabel grew up just west of Enid, Oklahoma, and met her late husband, Riley, at an Air Force base in Enid.

“We actually grew up just 40 miles apart but didn’t know each other in our younger years,” Mabel said.

Riley served as a pilot in the US Air Force for 22 years and was a part of 141 combat missions, including the Vietnam War.

This meant the family, which included their son, Dennis, and daughter, Debbie, would move several times. Over the years, home included Texas (multiple times), Georgia, South Dakota, New York, Maine, Florida, Iran and Okinawa, Japan.

While living in Okinawa for 3 years, Mabel first experienced working in a gift shop.

“I loved living in Okinawa and working in the gift shop, which was ran by the officers’ wives club,” Mabel said.

After her husband retired from the Air Force, the family settled down on a farm outside of Rolla, where they raised cattle, soybeans and corn. Farm life kept Mabel busy, as well as making trips to Oklahoma to help care for her ailing mother.

When her mother passed away, however, and family was not close by, Mabel looked for something to occupy her time, to fill this new void.

“I knew I wanted to volunteer, and I’ve always admired Phelps Health,” said Mabel, who is a survivor of breast and uterine cancer and has experienced great care at the healthcare organization.

Volunteering at The Lily Pad, in particular, has many benefits.

“It’s a great way to serve and to meet people, and it gets me out of the house,” said Mabel, who lost her husband in 2012. “Before having children, I worked at a bank, so I also enjoy the opportunity to handle money at the cash register.”

Even breaking her hip last year hasn’t deterred her from helping.

“I broke my hip while getting the mail,” Mabel said. “Thankfully, I was able to get in the next day, and [Phelps Health Orthopedic Surgeon] Dr. [Sylvester] Youlo did my surgery. The surgery and the physical therapy both went remarkably well.”

After receiving clearance from her doctor, Mabel knew she wanted to return to the gift shop.

“The Auxiliary team was kind enough to let me come back, even with my walker,” Mabel said. “Deanna, Crystal [Lorah, director of Auxiliary and Volunteer Services] and Neal [Fallesen, Auxiliary and Volunteer Services specialist] have been great to work with.”

Mabel has seen several changes in her 22 years of volunteering.

“When I first started, the gift shop was half the size that it is now,” she said. “It doubled in size in 2011. I love the variety of items we have. The selection is always changing, and we have sales quite often.”

“Volunteering here has really enriched my life,” Mabel added. “You never know what customers are going through, but I do my best to smile and listen. When they leave, I hope I’ve made their day a little more pleasant.”

Phelps Health Gift Shop Merchandiser Deanna Brown, right, appreciates volunteer Mabel Godfrey’s gift of time and service to The Lily Pad Gift Shop.

When she’s not behind the cash register, Mabel enjoys traveling to see family and going on river cruises with her daughter. Past cruises have included Alaska; Amsterdam and Belgium; Haiti and Jamaica; and most recently, Puget Sound.

Looking for a Way to Give Back?

The Phelps Health Auxiliary and Volunteer Services team is always in search of new volunteers. If you are interested in serving, please contact Crystal Lorah at or (573) 458-7947.

Found in: Auxiliary Auxiliary and Volunteer Services Community Volunteering