Purpose and Passion Drive Volunteer Efforts to Make a Difference in Greater Communities

October 26, 2017

in Organization News

Mix an unmeasurable amount of care and compassion from The Waterford with more than 3,000 slices of bread, gallons of peanut butter and dozens of pounds of deli meat and cheese, and you have a recipe to help those in need in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Every Wednesday morning, a group of 10 to 15 health center residents at The Waterford converge for what’s become a special weekly tradition — making sandwiches for the homeless as part of its Community Service Sandwich Shoppe program. The Shoppe is operated in partnership with two local organizations that assist area homeless and help distribute the sandwiches.

“This program grew out of a devotion to volunteerism,” explained Leenie Holgate, lifestyle director at The Waterford. “It’s awe-inspiring and shows just how vibrant and kindhearted residents are. We’re happy to help support that passion for giving back to the greater area whenever and however possible.”

Now in its ninth month of operation, the Shoppe added an additional component earlier this year. Biweekly, a group of residents meet to make blankets to donate along with the sandwiches to help provide additional comfort to recipients. Lifespace and The Waterford purchase food and supplies for the Shoppe.

“Our residents hold Mother Teresa’s motto of ‘It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into our giving,’ in high regard,” said Leenie. “That sense of thoughtfulness gave birth to the idea of also donating blankets. Residents felt they had the ability to do more, and they actively pursued it.”

About 1,500 miles away in Urbandale, Iowa, residents at Deerfield are taking an intergenerational approach to volunteerism. Through a partnership with Crestview School of Inquiry, a local elementary school, residents assist with the school’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Crestview boasts a substantial immigrant student population with 40 different nationalities represented on the campus.

Twice a week, residents meet one-on-one with students for reading sessions at Deerfield. An average of 26 students take part, ranging from kindergarten to fifth-grade. In addition to volunteering with the ESL program, Deerfield and residents periodically donate food, school supplies, clothing and shoes for students in need.

Resident Marian Jacobs, a member of Deerfield’s vocational committee, which spearheads the program, noted the students are very receptive to the intergenerational mix.

“The students are just so delighted with us, which is awfully nice,” said Marian. “The school has also been extremely supportive. They do an excellent job of bringing the kids up to speed not only with reading, but also assimilating them to American culture, and we’re happy to help in that process.”

Marian was also keen to share the residents’ enthusiasm and appreciation for the venture.

“The program makes a tremendous difference in our lives as well,” she said. “It gives us an avenue to expand our horizons, and I believe it’s extremely important to think of someone besides ourselves.”

These two programs are prime examples of social accountability efforts Lifespace Communities champions across the organization. In addition to making a difference in the lives of others, volunteerism also has potential health benefits for older adults. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, as well as recent research from Stanford University, older adults who volunteer can have better physical health, cognitive ability and lower rates of depression and mortality.

Leenie has seen this firsthand at The Waterford. “Volunteerism has given so much joy to our residents and everyone here. There’s a certain energy, liveliness and fulfillment that comes from knowing you’re having a positive impact on people’s lives.”

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