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Naturalized citizen gives patriotic gifts on 4th of July
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Thrilled to be a U.S. citizen, Thailand immigrant Amy Conklin takes Independence Day seriously in her adopted America. Standing in the main hallway of Doctors Hospital, she holds a basket of homemade gifts that will go to patients on Friday morning to mark the importance of the July 4th celebration. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Amy Conklin loves the United States of America.

She had finished her basket of gifts for hospital patients that will be handed out on Friday, July 4, following a tradition she started over six years ago. She had created 3,000 gifts over the years for various holidays.

The naturalized citizen has been a member of the Doctors Hospital Auxiliary since 1998, working mostly in the nursery with the newborn babies.

A native of Thailand, she said celebrations similar to the Fourth of July are held in the Southeast Asia during the first week of December – the birthday of the king.

 “It’s worse than it is here,” she said. 

Fireworks can’t be fired off after 10 p.m. for fear of igniting the wooden roofs – easy to burn going quickly from roof to roof. 

“It was a time when I was so scared when I was young seeing those fires. You can’t call 911 like we do here. They don’t come immediately – maybe two hours later. You have to help each other,” she said. “There is shooting of guns into the air and, even if you stay in bed, you can get killed. They need volunteers to get them educated. I would love to do that too.”

She said she and her husband Gary always go to the Fourth of July Parade together. 

Conklin has finished her AA degree studies at Delta College and is now awaiting a class to open at Merced College where she can obtain her registered nursing degree and license. She notes that she has been frustrated because many of the nursing schools have been impacted and turn away applicants.

Conklin has been focused on Independence Day at the hospital for six years where she has walked through the patients’ rooms – and as she puts it – “bringing them smiles and hope that they can go home soon.”

She said it gives her the opportunity to be a better person by cheering up the sick and injured. 

“I’m not really sure who I am – not really comfortable with myself – but I am able to share conversation,” she said. “I gain inspiration from the patients as I walk down the halls, as I try to keep it simple. Even though they are sick in bed, they seem excited to see me. I feel like I’m a Santa Claus all year round.”

Conklin makes her craft items at her home for about nine holidays throughout the year in addition to July 4th. Those include Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day.

She said she has applied to nursing schools because she wants to become an R.N. She has applied to San Joaquin Delta College, Modesto Junior College and Merced College, the latter giving her the most hope. She was accepted to Merced College in 2012, but has to wait another two years to actually start classes there. 

“With all my heart I want to help people,” she said. 

Her AA degree from Delta College is in Measurable Science and Teacher Preparation that she received in 2011. She said she could envision becoming a radiology tech as a stepping stone to nursing. 

Her history includes taking care of her husband’s parents in their Manteca home for years until their passing – her father-in-law died on Memorial Day last year. She had taken care of him for some 12 years, she said. 

Conklin also tells of her son Opal who has remained in Thailand where he is studying to be a programmer. Of her son she said, “Life is learning. I can’t teach him everything.”

As for herself she said, “I am just a little star, but I believe if a lot of stars fill the dark night, that night would be the most sparkling night on the planet.”