Opinion

As need grows, more IVC volunteers sought | Guest Column | Feb. 11

Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers (IVC) recently received a call from a widowed woman in her 80s asking for help.

The woman, who uses a walker and wants to remain in her own home, requested an IVC volunteer to: visit her and take her out occasionally; transport her to physical therapy; and take her grocery shopping. All three requests were granted.

Another example of IVC helping a family in need involved a woman who works while her grandmother lives in her home; she sought someone to visit her grandma weekly for lunch and to occasionally take her out for her favorite past-time – watching boats on a nice day. Volunteers were dispatched.

Many vulnerable people in our community need help to cope with difficulties of aging, disabilities, other health conditions and loneliness.

Many are receiving assistance through the generosity and compassion of more than 100 neighbors volunteering through IVC. But these needs are greatly increasing, and more volunteers are needed.

IVC (established in 1996) is a nonprofit organization of volunteers who assist the elderly and others temporarily in need, and help them maintain their dignity, independence and quality of life. Those helped are mostly Bainbridge residents, plus some in North Kitsap. All services are without charge or regard to presence or absence of religious affiliation.

Help is given in numerous ways, including: transportation to health care appointments; shopping and other errands; help with household chores; gardening or minor repairs; reading to the visually impaired; companionship through visits, walks, drives or other enjoyable activities; and respite care to relieve family caregivers.

IVC staff frequently sends emails identifying current needs to volunteers, who may then choose how and when they can help. IVC offers its volunteers orientation and training, and staff also pre-screens all care receivers.

As a few more examples of IVC volunteers making a difference to neighbors in need, volunteers, individually or as members of rotating “teams,” have:

• Taken a young single mother to radiation appointments five days a week;

• Helped a woman diagnosed with terminal cancer clean her small apartment, shop for groceries and walk her dog;

• Transported a wheel-chair bound husband to visit his wife weekly at a care facility to which she had to be moved due to Alzheimer’s disease;

• Provided needed help with housekeeping and cooking meals to an elderly man who had suffered a stroke and was his wife’s sole caregiver;

• Provided child care for a woman who is the sole caregiver for her 6-year old nephew so she could take a business class;

• Helped a visually impaired woman navigate through the fine print in the voter’s pamphlet; and

• Found a gin rummy companion for an elderly woman.

The relationships between volunteers and care receivers enrich the lives of both.

One care receiver said:

“When IVC provides me with a ride to Seattle for chemo and other treatment, I get much more than transportation. Every driver has been interesting and intelligent. They chat about children, family, books, profession, local news and more.

“They even listen patiently while I vent about politics. No matter how I feel physically, I arrive home refreshed and in a positive frame of mind. Each of them is loved and respected.”

To IVC volunteers, the experience means new and interesting relationships and the satisfaction of giving to others.

One volunteer put it this way: “Each story and person has touched my heart, humbled me and hopefully made me a better person for the experience.” Another said: “I have made special friends of both clients and their families. They have been so kind and appreciative of each little thing I do. What I can never quite put into words is what they do for me. Allowing me to be a part of their lives brings an abundance of love and joy to me.”

In a recent speech, President Obama remarked that at times we recognize that “in the fleeting time we have on this earth what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame, but rather, how well we have loved – and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.” Similarly, Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

IVC needs more caring men and women who want to give of themselves to enhance the lives of others. If interested, please give IVC a call at 842-4441.

Dick Goff is a member of the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Board of Directors

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