LeadingAge Magazine · November-December 2016 • Volume 06 • Number 06

Two Volunteers Help Clients of Vermont Community-Based Service Initiative

Cathedral Square, South Burlington, VT

Have you ever wondered what it would be like not to drive? How would you pick up your groceries or medications? What would it take to get you to a weekly medical or physical therapy appointment? How about going out to eat, or to visit family and friends?

Bev Brown, who didn’t start driving until her mid-50s, knows from first-hand experience what it feels like, and takes, to navigate through life without a drivers’ license. She realized how important it is to own a vehicle, and made a promise that once she had her license and the time, she would volunteer her time driving folks without the means to drive. Since making that decision to drive for our participants in SASH (Support And Services at Home) in 2015, she has gone full speed ahead.

“The need is far greater than I anticipated” says Bev. “I have met some very nice people and developed friendships. I meet new people all the time, and am having fun.”

When asked how long she plans on volunteering Bev said, “As long as I can drive; and I’m not anywhere close to stopping! My advice to anyone thinking about helping out with driving is to give it a try. I think they would love it!

Nick Hadsel-Mares of Burlington, another SASH volunteer, is the kind of volunteer seniors could use more of in an increasingly digital world.

A skilled computer technician, Hadsel-Mares does house calls for community-based clients of Cathedral Square, helping them resolve computer issues, update software, set up new hardware or create email accounts.

He handles about one visit per week, usually spending 30-60 minutes per visit, and for time-consuming fixes he'll often take a computer home to repair or update.

Hadsel-Mares was the subject of an article in the Burlington Free Press, in which he states, "The idea that these people can ... keep up connections with their families and the outside world, that they have the tools to do that, that's the best part of my work."

- Beth Alpert, volunteer coordinator and SASH coordinator, Cathedral Square


Employee-Created Giving Campaign Enlists Residents Too

Mary’s Woods, Lake Oswego, OR

Mary’s Woods is taking giving to the next level. Sparked by a tradition of giving, employees recently developed the Employee Giving Campaign (EGC), an initiative born out of a desire to create meaningful opportunities for staff members to work together while giving back to the broader community. The program is designed to offer multiple ways to participate, including: volunteering at an event, giving to a charity or collection, or donating financial support to the EGC Fund.

“Although initially designed as a way for employees to help others, we have gotten tremendous support from residents who want to get involved,” says Resident Services Manager Jessica Harvey. “As a result, this unified effort has strengthened employee/resident relations on our campus, at the same time bolstered our efforts to help those in need.”

In creating this program, the EGC team hopes to foster employee engagement and excitement toward spreading the organization’s mission and values beyond the walls of Mary’s Woods. The team hopes to build a culture where everyone is an ambassador for philanthropy.

Since its inception in June 2016, the campaign has had multiple successful events: “We partnered with the American Red Cross and hosted our first blood drive,” added Jessica, “We ended up exceeding our goal of units collected. The majority of our participants were staff and residents, and over half were first-time donors. This shows that we are providing opportunities for people to give who perhaps wouldn’t have, or couldn't have, on their own.”

During the school supply drive benefitting low-income families, Carrie Meldgaard, outreach coordinator for home care services, was moved by the selfless act of a resident who wanted to help. “One of the sisters who lives in assisted living approached me with about $15 in coins and bills,” said Carrie. “It was the last of her monthly money and she said to me, “I’m an old lady and don’t get around well, can you please buy one of those kids a backpack for me?’”

The team hopes to continue to support organizations such as American Red Cross, the Alzheimer’s Association, Oregon Food Bank, Potluck in the Park, and Christmas Family Adoption.

- Jessica Harvey, resident services manager, Mary’s Woods


Bring on the Backpacks!

Friendly Senior Living, Rochester, NY

There was an air of anticipation at Martin B. Anderson School No. 1 in the Rochester City School District as Friendly Home Members (residents) waited patiently to hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to students beginning a new school year. For the second year in a row, our Members, with help from Pastoral Care Coordinator Rev. Marjory Roth, organized a drive to collect school supplies, and the day had finally arrived for their personal delivery!

On the way over to the school, Friendly Home Members and accompanying family members and volunteers shared their own “back-to-school” memories. One Member, who struggles to leave the safety of the building, shared upon her return that the experience was “great!” and “I got a hug!” There were many hugs, handshakes and even the occasional kiss from the 4- to 6-year-olds who were thrilled to receive new backpacks filled with school supplies, dubbed a “special treat” by one little girl.

The excitement of delivering the backpacks directly to the students was preceded by a back-to-school drive that brought the whole building together—employees, volunteers, Members, families and friends! Many people who donated items said how much fun they had picking out the school supplies.

Giving back is one way for Members to stay engaged in the community. “It is good to feel useful again,” said one. Every time one of the participating Members saw Roth, she would ask for a report on the numbers of collected items. One Member had been having some physical issues, but the desire to be a part of this effort provided the motivation to get better. Another packed the book bags with such care that the folders that went inside were not only color- coordinated with each other but with the backpack itself. For a Member who is blind, the highlight of delivering the supplies for the last 2 years has been shaking the “little hands” of the kids; after the first year, he talked about it until this year’s outing!

- Amy Flinn, marketing & communications manager, Friendly Senior Living


Residents Find New Passions in Their Next Chapters

For residents at Duncaster, Bloomfield, CT, retirement has allowed them to discover new passions or rediscover hobbies they did not have time for before retirement.

Some do volunteer work through Duncaster-sponsored programs. A popular one is the tutoring partnership Duncaster has with Bloomfield Public Schools, called Metacomet Mentors. The program involves a group of residents who go to the school once a week and aid students with reading and comprehension skills. Each of the volunteers is assigned to one third-grader and one fourth-grader for the duration of the school year.

Thayer Brown, the administrator of Metacomet Mentors and a tutor in the program, says that it is important for seniors to stay involved in the working world. Brown was not an educator in his earlier employment; he was a businessman. His interest in teaching comes from his father and grandfather, who were both educators. In fact, the majority of volunteers have never had formal teaching experience before working with Metacomet Mentors. They simply do it because they enjoy teaching and working with children.

Duncaster resident Gretchen LaBau’s first chapter was in education, having been an art teacher and director of admissions at Renbrook School in West Hartford. For the past 12 years she has been volunteering once a week at Our Companions Animal Rescue.

“When I retired from the career I had in education, I wanted to get more involved with animals,” she says. Our Companions goes to extraordinary lengths to rescue animals, rehabilitate them and find them permanent homes. LaBau serves on the organization’s board.

LaBau says volunteering is very important to her health and the health of the outside community. Not only does she feel she is benefiting the organization but “… it gives a person a broader perspective on the world around them.”

- Andrea Obston Marketing Communications, Bloomfield, CT

Thanks to the LeadingAge members who wrote the stories included in this article. To contribute more stories of successful volunteer programs—and how your organization has facilitated volunteerism—contact Editor Gene Mitchell at GMitchell@LeadingAge.org or 202-508-9424.