Belle Sorokin didn't want to spend her retirement years sitting in her condo watching Judge Judy, so she went to volunteer at Lee Memorial Health System.
Twenty years later, Sorokin is still volunteering. And even as she enters her triple digits agewise, she has no intention of stopping as long as she is able.
Sorokin and members of the volunteer staff and Cape Coral Hospital officials held a party to celebrate her 100th birthday Wednesday and to present her with tokens of appreciation, as well as a letter from the CEO.
Belle Sorokin talks to the media.
When Sorokin moved to Florida 20 years ago, she was encouraged by her son to become a volunteer so she wouldn't "vegetate."
"I followed that advice and volunteering has enriched my life," Sorokin said. "It's a wonderful feeling knowing you're helping somebody. At the same time, it's helping me feel good."
Sorokin started by volunteering at Lee Memorial Hospital before coming to Cape Coral Hospital seven years ago. At both places, she found many wonderful friends who have allowed her to continue enjoying what she does.
Sorokin comes in every Wednesday morning and works four hours, stuffing envelopes or putting together emergency information packets that are distributed to the community, according to Teresa Frank-Fahrner, program coordinator for SHARE Club.
Those four hours a day have added up. She has put 7,043 volunteer hours for Lee Memorial Health System.
The party featured Wenda Piascik, vice president of patient care services, reading a letter from CEO Jim Nathan, thanking Belle for all she's done.
Donna Bradish, director of volunteer services, presented Sorokin with a certificate to commemorate her time, while Frank-Fahrner gave her a picture of them together.
There also was lunch and a birthday cake, to which Sorokin was very appreciative.
"If I had a good knee, I'd go dancing," Sorokin said as many laughed. "I'd be the belle of the ball."
Sorokin said despite being a centenarian, she still plans to rack up more hours as a volunteer.
"I'll stay as long as I can and as long as my supervisor will let me," Sorokin said. "As long as I am needed, that's the whole idea."
Sorokin began volunteering while living in Michigan in her 20s, working for the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and other organizations, besides working as a medical secretary at a hospital.
"It's a feeling I wish everyone could have, and it makes me feel fortunate. I've had doctors ask me what's my magic," Sorokin said. "One doctor told me I must have had a wonderful life. Wrong."
Sorokin was born during World War I. When the soldiers came home, she said she "learned what poverty meant." She lived through the Depression, World War II and other tough times.
She said maintaining a good attitude helped her get through it.
"There's a saying: The weak shall perish by the roadside and strong string shall inherit the earth," Sorokin said. "If you're going to weaken, and you give in and feel sorry for yourself, you're finished. Stay the course and the road will get smooth again."