Resident Volunteerism Rewards Both Giver and Recipient

By Fern Marder

The Living With A Purpose Club at Parker at McCarrick (Photo credit: Fern Marder)

Everyone wants to be needed. Human beings are fulfilled when we have a job that benefits others in any way, whether we clean houses, teach children, run a business, or perform heart surgery. All religions clearly state that we should give to others who are not as fortunate as ourselves. When a person become a mature adult and begins receiving care or is moving to a long-term care residence, you might assume that he or she now benefits from other people’s beneficence. However, no matter how or fragile a person becomes, even if they can no longer live on their own, they often still want to find a way to give back and live a purposeful, meaningful life.

“If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path.” ~Buddha

The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences published a study in the Psychological Bulletin in 2014, which determined that “volunteerism is associated with reductions in symptoms of depression, better overall health, fewer functional limitations, and greater longevity. Feeling appreciated or needed as a volunteer appears to amplify the relationship between volunteering and psychosocial wellbeing.” In other words, altruism is physically and emotionally beneficial for the recipient as well as the person doing the giving.

A remarkable example of residents’ altruism can be found in Parker at McCarrick, where long-term care residents formed the “Living with a Purpose Club” two years ago, under the guidance of social worker Erica Rattray-St. Jean. One of the group’s principles states that “If we don’t help others in need, if we don’t help ourselves, and if we have talents and do not use them to bless others, then we are empty by spiritual and societal standards.”

Since its inception the club has raised money and collected materials for the Alzheimer’s Association, the Living Water Children’s Centre fund, a school in Kenya, and the Caribbean Medical Mission of New Jersey.
The Living with a Purpose Club has just finished collecting gifts for Samaritan’s Purse (Operation Christmas Child), where participants donated a gift that could fit in a shoe box along with a check for $7 for shipping. These gifts are shipped to needy children all over the world. The Parker at McCarrick club held a 50/50 raffle to benefit Camp No Limits, which helps young people and their families with limb loss.

“Deeds of kindness are the very foundations of the world.” ~ Ethics of the Fathers 1:2

This season, participants of the Adult Day Center formed a choir with the purpose of entertaining people who live in nursing homes. The program was planned and produced by Cheryl Dolida, recreation coordinator, who also acted as the Master of Ceremonies. Fifteen talented singers along with guest vocalist Kailin Bouse and led by choir director Daniel Carr, performed at Parker at River Road on December 6th, Parker at Landing Lane on December 13th and Parker at McCarrick on December 20th.

The holiday program included 10 songs, including Christmas favorites “Joy to the World” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” as well as the Chanukah children’s song, “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” Two program participants, Elaine and MaryAnn, also read the famous poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” written by Clement Clarke Moore, to the smiling audience. The concerts ended with applause and shouts of approval. The choir members agree that it was worth all their hard work to make others happy during the holiday season.

“A man’s true wealth is the good he does in this world.” ~Muhammad

Many of Parker at Stonegate assisted living residents volunteer to help local charities such as Elijah’s Promise and community food banks throughout the year by making box lunches for the hungry. One Stonegate resident, Dorothy Tonkins spends time visiting one-to-one with elders who live at Parker at River Road. Another resident, Marilyn Levy, volunteers her time at the Country Store in the Pavilion. Some volunteers make sure new Stonegate residents are introduced to new friends to sit with at meals and are acclimated to life in an assisted living residence.  Others visit with those who are in the hospital or volunteer in the Child Development Center.

Gloria Cohn, a resident of Parker at Stonegate assisted living in Highland Park, is part of a group of residents who are avid and skilled knitters. Since last year the group has partnered with the Joan Schick Blanket Project to provide baby blankets to infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick. Every few months the group members produce a dozen or so colorful blankets, and Bobbie Rubin, coordinator of the Blanket Project, gladly drops by to pick up the group’s works and deliver them to the hospital.

“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” ~Proverbs 22:9

Parker at River Road resident Dr. Michael Wallach, a retired cell biologist, volunteers his time as a lecturer on a variety of topics for Parker residents and the general public. His 2016 monthly lecture series, Hidden History, was a great success. A new lecture series, Armchair Explorations, begins in January, with intriguing topics such as, “The Virtual Choir with 5000 Voices,” “The (Un)Lovely History of Divorce,” and “The Unbreakable Code of the Navajo Code Talkers.” From an early age, Dr. Wallach was inspired by his grandfather, a true Renaissance man who helped Michael develop a joy of learning. Michael’s ultimate goal for this series of lectures is to instill the joy of learning in his audience members.

No matter which volunteer activities our residents choose, they will enjoy the social, psychological, and emotional benefits of volunteering. There is no better reward that to use your unique talents and experience to help someone else.

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