This April marks the 42nd anniversary of National Volunteer Appreciation Month. Encompassed within the month is National Volunteer Week April 10th – 16th. North Shore Elder Services (NSES) recognizes the critical role their 200 plus volunteers play. Without these volunteers, accomplishing the goals and mission of our organization would be extremely difficult, if not near impossible.
At the helm of our volunteer program for the past eight years is Volunteer Coordinator Amy Bens. She speaks passionately about her job and especially about the volunteers who work for North Shore Elder Services. “Every day I am inspired by the words or actions of volunteers I cross paths with; for this I am lucky. I am always in awe of those who reach out to volunteer. I think our volunteers are really special. There is a wonderful variety of people who come to volunteer here but they all have one thing in common; they believe it is important to help those less fortunate. They want to give back, often times thankful for the good things in their own lives.”
There are many volunteer programs at NSES. The core programs include Money Management, Long Term Care Ombudsman, and Volunteer Companions. “All of these are connected to our Home Care program and if there are unmet needs we can try to fill those needs with the help of volunteers. Volunteer opportunities within these programs are ongoing. There is always a need.”
Amy relies on a number of methods for recruiting volunteers. The internet, newspaper ads and word-of-mouth are the most popular ways volunteers find North Shore Elder Services. A volunteer can visit our website http://nselder.org/about-our-volunteers-2/ and fill out an application on line which stream lines the process for the volunteer and agency.
Another group of volunteer opportunities can be categorized under Support Volunteers. These might be with the Senior Housing sites, the North Shore Center for Hoarding and Cluttering program, Essentials program, office projects and special projects and events. North Shore Elder Services Advisory Boards (Board of Directors, AAA Advisory Council and Money Management Advisory Council) are made up of volunteers also.
Amy’s job is to find volunteers to fill the needs of the agency and to be part of creating new volunteer opportunities. She does the initial screening to try to find what the volunteer wants and needs. “I’m looking for a good match – one that works for both the volunteer and the agency. Volunteers have to be realistic about what they can do and what their schedule allows.”
Screening an applicant includes reference checks and all volunteers have a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) conducted. Once the initial screening is completed the volunteer meets with the Manager of the program they are matched with for further screening for suitability. The training that follows will be specifically with the Program Manager.
“The job has changed over the years. I have to adapt to those changes according to the clients we serve and the programs we are able to offer so that we are meeting the needs of the agency. There is much collaboration with Program Managers and those who need special project volunteers. Amy marvels at the commitment the volunteers bring. “For the most part, our volunteers are retired or semi-retired, or working a part-time job. It seems our best volunteers are always busy people.”
There are qualities Amy looks for in those who apply to volunteer. “They have to have patience and be caring people who can understand hardship and be empathetic. We need reliable and caring people who treat the opportunity to volunteer with a strong sense of commitment; the majority of the opportunities at NSES are ongoing, working best for those who can volunteer on a regular basis. A sense of humor always helps. I find there is often an extraordinary mix of life experiences a volunteer brings to the role and I think that results in open-mindedness and that’s a valuable quality.”
At this moment there is a great need for volunteers to be friendly visitors once a week or to help seniors balance a checkbook once a month. As Amy describes it, “We can never have too many volunteers. Our core programs are always looking for volunteers.”
Volunteerism strengthens our communities and programs. During Volunteer Appreciation Month we celebrate those who commit through volunteering. North Shore Elder Services’ volunteers provide services in countless ways and we want to thank all of our volunteers for their dedication.
We would also like to inspire more to get involved in our volunteer opportunities. (Check out our website for information http://nselder.org/about-our-volunteers-2/. On Thursday, April 14, 10am – 1pm, there will be a Volunteer Fair organized by SeniorCare held at Cruiseport Restaurant in Gloucester which will provide a chance to explore many volunteer positions on the North Shore. Stop by the North Shore Elder Services’ table to say hello and inquire further about volunteer opportunities. We do know that keeping active and engaged helps older adults live longer and promotes a positive outlook on life. Volunteerism is one perfect way to accomplish that.
Celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Month by thanking a volunteer. You can also go to our website at http://nselder.org/donate-2/ to donate today. Your generous contributions enable us to continue meeting the needs of our older adults in our communities and support our many programs to this end.