Side-lined volunteers are sad and grieving as their service is put on hold

Crisis Control Ministry staff practice social distancing while letting their volunteers know they’re missed.

Side-lined volunteers are sad and grieving as their service is put on hold
April 23
03:32 2020

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

Normally, Scott Hooper would be looking forward to volunteering with the Arc of High Point, helping their clients with learning disabilities to use their creative talents to draw and paint. Hooper, who also works for Walgreens, is a member of Associated Artists of Winston-Salem. He replied to my recent Facebook request for comments from side-lined volunteers and wrote, “I work with adults with learning disabilities at the Arc of High Point. What we do is help with the painting class. I miss the one-on-one we have with the students and I miss working with the other volunteers to create something wonderful with the students. I think we all grow as people and artists. We are building friendships as well as creating artwork.” 

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month and April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week. This is usually a time when nonprofit organizations celebrate their volunteers with luncheons and certificates of appreciation. But because of COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order, none of that will be happening this year.

Volunteers don’t do what they do for the glory, however. They do it because they’re passionate about the cause. Many local nonprofits have had to adjust their hours and limit their volunteers due to the possible spread of the virus. Older persons, who most often volunteer because they are retired and have the time, are at particular risk. Because of this, charities such as Crisis Control Ministry are not currently using any volunteers and have staff performing all the duties that volunteers once did. Needless to say, they are missed. They recently showed their gratitude for their volunteers by taking a photo for Facebook of the staff in the parking lot holding signs with messages such as “We miss you!” 

Carmina “Peggy” Jenks, director of the Shepherd Center Singers, mentioned during a telephone interview that although her chorus can’t perform right now, she “appreciates the creativity that is coming out in other ways.” Since her choir members can’t sing together, they are finding other ways to be creative. One member shared a poem and said it was the first poem she had written in over 50 years. Jenks said they had just started to work on their spring season when the virus hit and now the season has been cancelled. She is working on music for the Christmas season and hopes that they will be able to begin rehearsals by early summer. Zoom meetings don’t work for rehearsals, so Jenks has fallen back on the “old-fashioned way” by searching out tape recorders on Amazon so that the singers can have cassettes of the music they will be learning.

“I miss the human contact,” said Marva Reid, who is with the East/Northeast Winston Neighborhood Association. “You have to be creative … we talk on the phone, but you can’t look at their expressions,” she said. “I miss being able to physically, emotionally be there … you can’t feel through the phone.”

In a text message, Chris Puliselic, related her feelings. “Being a Shepherd Center Book Room volunteer for some years, I am unhappy that it has to be closed. When we enter that room … our eyes light up, hoping for many, many boxes of donated books to process. We consider it fun,” she wrote. “Not being able to go there is like being separated from family members who share the same love of books … not being together is definitely a sadness … It’s like temporarily losing a lifeline to what keeps our minds open.”

In a phone interview with Bobby King, who has volunteered with Senior Services’ Meals on Wheels program for 14 years, said that he is still able to volunteer, but in a much reduced capacity. He is now delivering frozen meals, which he leaves at the door of the client. “It’s totally contactless deliveries now, which is highly impersonal, but at least we get the opportunity to yell at the door.” King calls clients before he makes deliveries to make sure someone will be at home. “It’s not quite as rewarding, but I thank God for at least that.” 

In an email, Ann McLain mentioned that she volunteers at several places. “I volunteered at Tanglewood as an Extension Master Gardener volunteer once a week and we can’t do that now. I also work in my own garden, but it is not the same as working alongside other gardeners. I miss contact with other EMGVs.”

Ann also volunteers for the Shepherd’s Center, visiting with a homebound senior. “She is no longer a client because she had to move to skilled care over a year ago. I had been visiting her for about 10 years so I continued visiting her once a week. I miss our visits and hearing her stories. I know I have heard them all, but she loves to talk about old times. We can’t talk on the phone as she is very hard of hearing and she can’t get to the phone without help. I am writing to her every week.” Ann is also writing cards to shut-ins through Shepherd Center’s Card Connection.

Bob Campbell said via email, “For over 25 years I volunteered at Crisis Control Ministry. It was part of my Tuesday evening routine.  I miss the comradery of the fellow volunteers, but most of all, I miss not knowing what happens to the people who would normally be receiving assistance. Although some rents and utilities may be forgiven now, what will happen in a few months?”

The Walkers are a couple who volunteer together. Debbie wrote: “Most of our volunteer work includes driving people or delivering meals. Jon drove for the VA on Mondays, taking veterans from W-S and the surrounding areas to appointments at the clinic in Kernersville. We both drove for the Kernersville Shepherd’s Center, and we both drove for Meals on Wheels. We stayed pretty busy with this, and it gave us a purpose in life that included helping others. We greatly miss the interaction with the people we drove, and I know they miss seeing us.”

Without volunteers donating their time and passion to the causes they care about, most nonprofits would be sunk. Using paid staff to tutor students, greet hospital patients and their families, care for shelter dogs and cats, distribute meals to the elderly and disabled, and other tasks happily performed by volunteers would be impossible – and impossibly expensive. Volunteers make it happen. 

Bobby King summed up what many of the volunteers expressed: “We are just as much blessed as those we bless.”

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