We often mention the fact that our volunteers benefit from the their time with the Red Cross as much as the people they serve. But what exactly does that mean? Here's a first-hand account from Grace Barczykowski, who's a relatively new volunteer with our Services to Seniors department:
"While serving as caregiver to my mother, I noticed that there were several other residents in the nursing home that she lived in who didn’t have family and needed someone else to look out for them. That may be what initially drew me to the American Red Cross Ombudsman program, but I have discovered that the best part of my four months as a volunteer is the opportuntiy to meet and get to know to meet so many interesting people with so many stories.
As the residents at The Courtyards in Hamburg get to know me, they begin to share stories about their lives and experiences. One resident is a concentration camp survivor. Another worked as a cook during his teenage years at a restaurant in the Catskills, meeting celebrities like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. My weekly visits have been like walking through a living history lesson, with a personal touch.
Once the residents realized I was going to be a regular visitor and someone they could trust, they began to share a few issues they had with their specific situations. The staff and administration at The Courtyards has been extremely supportive, open to listening and working together to improve the quality of life for each person living there.
The staff at the American Red Cross has also been extremely helpful, providing excellent training and then supporting my efforts once I began volunteering. Ongoing, monthy inservices are also offered that provide information and address topics that an Ombudsman may be asked to deal with. There are training sessions for new Ombudsman volunteers scheduled later this month, and I would encourage anyone who cares about our area’s seniors to visit www.buffaloredcross.org or call (716) 878-2351 for more information. You’ll not only be an advocate for them, but you’ll enrich your own life through the stories you’ll hear."
Sound like something you'd like to experience for yourself? The next training program, a total of 28 hours, is scheduled for April 30th-May 3rd. If you're at least 21 years of age, contact Melanie Keem at the number above or firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up today!