Helping handsThe Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers are there when islanders need them.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:45 PM
"Todd Stabelfeldt is like any 22-year-old. He goes to the movies and to Jazz Alley with friends. He wears his baseball cap backwards. He surfs the 'Net sometimes, but gets impatient with how long it takes to download information. What distinguishes Stabelfeldt is that he has been a quadriplegic since age 8, when his 12-year-old cousin accidentally shot him with an antique rifle.Today, Stabelfeldt has a full-time job with an island anatomic pathology firm, Cortex Medical Management Systems, that provides database software. He accomplishes many things for himself, like using phone and computer, by blowing puffs of air into specially-designed equipment.For others activities, though, he gets a hand from the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Bainbridge Island, who send a volunteer twice a week to do lunch with Stabelfeldt at his office.One thinks of caregivers as ministering to the dying, says Craig Merrill, IVC's new co-director with Donna McKinney, but we encounter all kinds of interesting situations. For instance, twice a week, we take a dog from a kennel to visit his master at Messenger House.Today, Stabelfeldt receives burrito and rice from retired investment business owner Jamie Neils. Neils was introduced to Stabelfeldt by his wife, Alyson, who also volunteers. The burrito is a little spicy for Stabelfeldt - and he's more into conversation anyway, explaining the baseball cap by saying, I always work with adults - I never get to act my own age.I'm a big person on not burning people out. Stabelfeldt says. I like to pay the people who help me. It's been a very long process to say it's OK to ask for help and not reciprocate.I get excited when a neighbor calls and asks me for help. The volunteer caregiver gives up on getting lunch into Stabelfeldt, who offers him the burrito. Merrill and Neils seem like casual friends of Stabelfeldt, more than serious folk out to do good works.Stabelfeldt lists the merits of the various people who give him a hand on a regular basis. The fire department is where it's at, he says. They are awesome. Department volunteers came at 1:30 a.m. one morning, when a weekend attendant had a hard time waking up when Stabelfeldt needed assistance. Periodically, Stabelfeldt says, disruptive - although not life-threatening - side-effects of quadriplegia necessitate a trip to Harrison Hospital, and the fire department is always there. We joke around, Stabelefeldt says. I say 'Why don't you come over and put some love on me?' I just really, really, enjoy them.Merill and Neils quietly pack up lunch, and josh around with Stabelfeldt some more before letting themselves out of the office. They might take a pet for a walk next, or look in on a chronically ill elder. They don't think they deserve big kudos. For Neils, Merrill and the 50 active IVC volunteers, giving someone a hand is the usual.For our 50 interfaith volunteers, Merrill said, giving someone a hand is pretty much the name of the game.For information about Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Bainrbidge Island, call: 842-4441. "