If you have an urge to help, IVC has the need | Guest Column | Jan. 20

“We may be born with an urge to help.”

That was the headline of a news article (published in 2009) summarizing some biologists’ and psychologists’ views partly derived from testing and observing behavior in very young children.

Their conclusions: humans are born with natural inclinations to be helpful and empathetic toward others.

And these qualities seem innate because in many children healing and empathetic behavior appears very early, before parents could teach it.

I think an “urge to help” is a lifelong part of our makeup as human beings. To be sure, we have other natural instincts as well, including, understandably, selfishness to some extent.

I believe, however, that within each of us is a spirit or force that calls us to reach out to others in generosity, kindness and compassion; and that heeding that call can bring great enrichment, joy and meaning to our lives.

Ours is a very caring community, in which a great many people feel a desire to help others in need.

Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers (IVC) offers many varied opportunities to transform those desires into actions – through a program that meets important human needs while giving individual volunteers flexibility in choosing how and when they can help.

IVC volunteers assist neighbors who are elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable, and therefore need various kinds of help to maintain their dignity, independence and quality of life.

Volunteers do this primarily in response to IVC staff emails identifying current specific volunteer needs. Here are a few recent examples:

• A blind woman, just home from the hospital, would love to have a visitor.

• A 90-year-old gentleman has errands to run once a week, for groceries and medications; he’d also enjoy the outing and some conversation.

• An elderly woman needs someone to help her organize her belongings back into her home after a remodel.

• A seriously ill man requests someone to do some light housekeeping and occasionally prepare a small meal for him.

• A son  requests a visitor once a week to provide companionship for his 92-year old mother, who lives alone.

• Volunteers are needed to drive a little boy to preschool; his mom is ill and his dad is at work.

• A wife, who will be away a week on business, requests a volunteer to check in once every day or two to briefly visit her husband, who has serious health problems.

• A man recovering from surgery needs some help with co-housing applications and other important paperwork.

• A woman urgently needs transportation to a pain appointment in Silverdale.

• Another woman broke her ribs in a fall and needs transportation for a CAT-scan.

Many others who are physically unable to drive need volunteers to provide transportation – for medical appointments, and for other activities important to needs and quality of life.

Recent examples include: shopping; early-morning swimming lessons; a visually impaired persons book club; yoga classes; counseling; cancer and caregiver support group meetings; part-time work when busses aren’t available; Senior Center social activities; Bible study; and many more.

In the recent holiday season we’ve been blessed, as usual, by widespread generous giving, including financial donations to worthy causes by many able to afford this.

As we now embark on a New Year, we can recognize that in our community there are continuing human needs for which gifts of our personal time, efforts and friendship are the most precious – both for givers and recipients.

One IVC caregiver receiver recently wrote: “Volunteering for IVC is a great experience for anyone who cares about people. …Each time I return from an IVC assignment, I feel I’ve been blessed to make a new friend. I love to hear other peoples’ stories and their adventures in life. I consider volunteering a reciprocal experience. I have the opportunity to help others and they enrich my life.”

And the sister of a woman recovering from a stroke wrote: “It is difficult to put into words the gratitude that I have for Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers and the incredible volunteers that have helped my sister and our family.

Please share with your volunteers how important they are to helping my sister heal. In the important everyday acts of kindness, your volunteers have shown our family what hope and love look like.”

Needs for IVC services are steadily increasing, and IVC needs and welcomes additional volunteers.

If you are interested in helping to make a difference to a neighbor in need, please give IVC a call at 852-4441.

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

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