Volunteer with IVC to connect and change lives | Guest Viewpoint

Island Volunteer Caregivers recently received a call from a Bainbridge Island woman who had suffered significant personal losses in her life and suddenly found herself alone.

She lived by herself in the woods, and couldn’t drive.

So, on a recommendation of the fire department, she turned to IVC for help. In the past four months IVC volunteers have provided her with rides for her medical appointments as well as assisting her with medical note taking, taken her shopping, picked up her mail, and visited with her regularly. About these caring contacts she says:

“IVC has given me a new outlook on life altogether. I was confined in my home, but now thanks to IVC volunteers I have freedom again to go out in the world. I feel almost normal. Every night I give prayers of thanks to the fireman who recommended IVC, and to all the volunteers who take me places.”

This is one example of ways in which IVC (a nonprofit founded in 1996) connects people who desire to serve others, with many in our community who need help to cope with challenges of aging, disabilities, other health conditions, and social isolation. IVC volunteers give assistance to help our neighbors maintain their health, dignity, vitality, quality of life and ability to live as independently as possible.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of IVC’s mission. However, IVC now has a critical need for more volunteers. In recent months, IVC has experienced an upsurge in requests that are increasingly difficult to fill with existing volunteers.

If you volunteer with IVC you decide when and how you can help; there are no required times or minimum hours. You can also choose among a variety of opportunities.

Here is a summary and some examples:

Transportation needs and life enrichment. Many IVC care receivers need rides to medical appointments, grocery, pharmacy or other shopping. Our volunteers also enable care receivers to enjoy activities that help to make their lives more interesting, happy and connected with others in our community, enhancing socialization for people who may otherwise be isolated or depressed.

One-to-one shared experiences. Volunteers take care receivers to museums or art galleries; concerts, ballets, plays or movies; lectures or other educational events; a walk or a scenic drive; out for lunch or coffee. They also make in-home visits for conversation, playing cards, singing, listening to music, or help in organizing photos or reading to a visually impaired person.

Example: Lyn, 93, a former history teacher, loves “to talk and listen” about many subjects. She can’t do much walking any more. She went with volunteer Sarah to Bainbridge Gardens where Lyn loved the gardens and shopping. She was delighted when owner Donna Harui shared her family’s island history and their experiences with the Japanese American internment. As a volunteer, I also enjoyed taking Lyn on a scenic drive around the island followed by lunch, as part of IVC’s Life Enrichment Giving Tree fund—a delightful day for us both.

Group excursions. IVC recently sponsored docented tours of the Bainbridge Historical Museum, and the Suquamish Museum; Bloedel Reserve to enjoy the gardens in summer and its miniature Holiday House in winter; group attendance at films at Bainbridge Museum of Art; Bainbridge Symphony and Chorale concerts, Bainbridge Performing Arts; Readers’ Theatre at the Senior Center; and an ongoing monthly IVC-sponsored Music Appreciation group and Book Club.

Community Offerings. Every day, IVC volunteers provide transportation for care receivers wishing to participate in community cultural, recreational or social activities or programs. Recent examples: senior center sponsored line dancing, yoga, playing bridge and lunch; Churchmouse knitting circles; Community Book Clubs; VIP (Visually Impaired Persons group) at the library; working at a local pottery studio; and a number of trips by volunteers taking participants to the aquatic center — ages ranging from 10-93!

Help in and around the home. IVC often receives requests for a volunteer to help with light home chores, perhaps due to illness or recovery from injury or surgery. Examples: getting a woman’s garbage can to and from the top of the driveway; fixing lunch, help with gardening, or assistance with computer and technology issues. Also, volunteers help family caregivers with respite care and companionship for their loved ones, allowing caregivers to have time for themselves. It does indeed take a Village.

What to expect:

As a new IVC volunteer, you will receive an initial staff orientation, and you’ll regularly receive information about volunteer needs and opportunities. Also, you’ll be able to participate in gatherings with other volunteers, staff and selected speakers to learn and talk about topics important to caregiving and the people we serve.

In addition, the benefits of IVC volunteering are intangible. New friendships arise with care receivers and the unique stories they have to tell. The satisfaction of knowing you are making a positive difference in the lives of those you help, lightening their burdens and lifting their spirits, make a difference in our community and contribute to your overall volunteer experience.

Our volunteers often say that they receive much more than they give. This echoes what Booker T. Washington once said: “Those who are the happiest are those who do the most for others.”

Please consider helping neighbors in need and our community by volunteering with IVC. To volunteer or for more information, please call IVC at 842-4441 visit IVC’s website at www.ivcbainbridge.org.

Dick Goff is an IVC Caregivers volunteer and board member.