It is not every day you meet a group of individuals who are as kind-hearted and willing to serve others as the Small Home volunteers. The group was founded by St. John’s Volunteer Coordinator Jean Loomis and is driven by eight vibrant and active ladies from both Brickstone by St. John’s and St. John’s Meadows: Carol Bradshaw, Doris VanVechten, Karyl Friedman, Marty Keller, Rae Fradkin, Ginn Fitch, Jan Hammele, and Esther Smalline. After touring the newly renovated sixth floor at St. John’s Home last year, the group has periodically visited the Rose neighborhood where they enjoy sharing numerous baked goods and interacting with elders. “What strikes me most is when you walk in things begin to evolve and you can sense a change in aura; there’s a feeling of change in the room,” states Karyl. “They are very appreciative,” adds Ginn. “I just think it’s wonderful.”
The presence of these eight individuals does not go unnoticed, especially by staff members and elders at St. John’s Home. “We talk about how remarkable they are and that’s probably what has given them such a long life. They are such kind-hearted and giving people,” shahbaz Cindy Daniels explains. With the small homes transition that is continuing to take place, volunteers such as the Brickstone residents can really get to know and understand the elders here at St. John’s Home on a more personalized level. They can build relationships, discover commonalities, and even improve an individual’s quality of life, which may have previously been hindered by the medical model.
While volunteering is generally associated with “giving” or “serving” to some extent, the act of volunteering also provides a heart-warming sense of “getting,” especially to our Small Home volunteers. “It’s very rewarding and I’m enriching myself by volunteering,” affirms Karyl. Doris expresses how volunteering is “enjoyable” and that she “loves hearing their stories.” Because of the relationships beginning to form, volunteering is not solely limited to 150 Highland Avenue. In addition to making baked goods and crafting decorative wreaths with the residents, the Small Home volunteers have also hosted their new friends at Brickstone for concerts and luncheons. “When they come back, they talk about it for a couple of days,” states nurse leader Nigisti Berhan. “It’s good for them because it gives them purpose and they feel like they have accomplished something, which they have,” continues Cindy.
While there is talk of expanding this group of volunteers in the future, for the time being they will continue to serve the elders of the Rose neighborhood; after all, they do have a special bond. “I think what you give, as they say, you get back tenfold. There is just something about giving,” concludes Ginn.