In a previous blog article we looked at volunteer opportunities outside Willow Valley in the larger Lancaster community. However, there are scores of opportunities right here in our community, and it certainly is not difficult to match your talents and interests with a need. There are ample opportunities to help the overall operation of our community, such as helping in the mail room, being an usher at shows, providing audio visual technical support at concerts, operating the numerous libraries, creating flower arrangements inside and outside buildings, providing medical transport for residents, being a member of a resident council, mentoring new residents, or helping with the more than 100 clubs here at Willow Valley.
The supportive living communities and their volunteer efforts are very special and are probably the most impressive expression of caring you can find. It not only shows the compassion of volunteers, but also the dedication of staff to insure the best care for each resident. The majority of these volunteers are Willow Valley residents helping other residents, but others are from the Lancaster community, including many high school and college students. The emphasis on inter-generational interaction is an important element. Although many residents cannot get out into the outside world as much as they once did, the staff tries to bring the outside world to them through visits by volunteers. Many Lancaster companies participate in a “Day of Caring” where their staff will come to the supportive living environments and volunteer. The number of activities that volunteers are involved in are enormous. Volunteers assist with games, arts and crafts, day trips, country rides, gardening, discussion groups, reading, games, Bible study, reminiscing, book clubs, and exercise groups.
In my short time at Willow Valley, I personally have come to know resident volunteers who have developed their own volunteering niche. For example, Sara Kaebnick brightens up lives by making regular visits with her friendly and adorable dog, Sonny. Jack Reardon, Bob McDaniel, and Jack Wilkins are three talented musicians who tour all of the supportive living environments and regularly bring music and a nice dose of humor into so many lives. “Jack and Friends” perform 7, hour-long concerts per month and the group has been playing for the last 9 years. With Jack Reardon on piano, Bob McDaniel on trumpet, and Jack Wilkins performing vocals, they play music from the 1920’s to the 1960’s, the music their audience grew up with. Some concerts have a theme, such as the patriotic music associated with their July 4th concerts. Jack Reardon says “Our goal is to evoke pleasant memories with our music and have a good time playing music in a fun environment without a lot of pressure”. Jack admits he and his friends may be having more fun than their audience. The group also appreciates the kind words and memories the audience often shares with then following their performances.
As you can see, not only does staff truly care about residents, but also residents really care about each other. This has been one of the most profound realizations I have had after moving to Willow Valley. Volunteering at Willow Valley demonstrates how caring the community is, and it is very comforting to be surrounded by such kind and caring people. I have always felt the two main goals in life are to be happy and to help others. With the many opportunities and staff support to help others inside and outside of our community, helping to make the world a better place becomes a lot easier.
By Dale Johnson
Dale Johnson and his wife Christine moved to Willow Valley from Towson, MD in 2015. Dale taught geography at Towson University, while Christine was a director of human resources with McCormick & Co. the international spice company.