‘The Angel from Olmito’s’ actions defined volunteerism

Special to the PRESS

In 1949, reporter Lenore Uribe introduced the public to an “angel” that lived amongst the people. The story she wrote and published in, “The Brownsville Herald” acquainted the readership of then to the charity work of Mrs. J. A. Bennett, who was — by all accounts — an incredible lady whose life story had the makings of a Hollywood film, according to Uribe.

In or about 1910, Bennett left her native Ohio and made her way to Olmito, where she soon made friends with the people next door; which, at the time, lived miles away. She was a practical nurse, a profession that was much-needed during those brush country days.

It was obvious to her that among the rural population of this region, there were many people that did not have the advantages that she had—specifically health care.

Uribe wrote, “Ever since her arrival in Olmito, she’s been a nurse, doctor, welfare worker, and ‘mother-confessor’ to countless of people whose lives she has brightened, and sometimes saved.”

This was an era when a doctor’s visit required a horseback ride into town to find one of the few physicians that would be able to return with the traveler to see the patient.

Bennett was the alternative to the doctor. In many cases, her home became the emergency room until help could arrive. Sometimes it never did, and she was forced to carry on alone.

Aside from nursing the sick and wounded, she estimated that she delivered over 1,000 babies—of which many were at-risk pregnancies. And because she was able to improvise an incubator, the preemies under her care got to see the light of day.

Her work was strictly voluntary. Speaking then, she said, “I help people who are too timid, or too proud to seek medical or financial aid elsewhere.”

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