The Two Sides of Volunteering

Elaine Whitford Give_Receive_Care

Life often takes us on a roller-coaster. I was caring for my father in 2006, while working, plus going to school full-time. I had no idea how physically taxing all this would be. It took a toll on my emotional and mental health.

I was alone in caring for my Dad, as family did not live in the area. Although Dad was fairly independent, he was in and out of the hospital. His health alternated between needing minimal care to more intense care, back to minimal care.

Caregiving is a challenge even when only minimal duties are expected, but when it varies at unpredictable intervals, new challenges arise. I knew I needed help – and fast! I reached out to a Social Worker at the hospital.

“The Center for Volunteer Caregiving is in Wake County,” she said. “They can arrange for a volunteer to call your father and to check in with him and provide friendly conversation.”

It seemed hard to believe a volunteer would be able to come. Plus, I wasn’t sure how that would help since Dad’s health was going downhill quickly. Dad seemed interested in the phone calls and we signed up.

The volunteers from The Center who called Dad were great. My father enjoyed the conversations, and the volunteers were so friendly that he didn’t feel like he was being “checked on.”

It was such a relief to know that someone else was reaching out to Dad and could notify me if they suspected that something wasn’t right, or if they could not reach him. Just knowing there was another person keeping an eye (or ear, in my case) on my father was a great comfort.

The phone calls made a difference to both my father and me by addressing a need that we didn’t even realize we had.

A Chance to Give Back

Dad died in 2007. The roller coaster ride intensified as I worked through the grief of losing him. One day, I was going through a journal that I kept during my father’s illness and came across notes from The Center for Volunteer Caregiving. I felt a special connection to The Center and the staff while I was reading a brochure about the services they offer to the community. I remembered how much the services meant to me and I knew I had to give back.

Hesitant to make a commitment with my unpredictable work schedule, I waited a couple of months prior to contacting The Center. I attended a function and talked to a staff member. When I learned that there were various ways to volunteer, and there was no specific number of hours or days that I had to commit to, I felt compelled to attend a Volunteer Orientation.

I immediately felt a bond with the staff, because they were so dedicated to The Center’s mission, and communicated just how much the community depended on their services and volunteers like me.

There are so many ways that I could contribute: transportation, friendly visits, respite care, or assisting with housekeeping and yard work. There is something for everyone. The Orientation is planned with respect to the fact that volunteers might have limited time, yet the time spent was quite informative. Informative enough that I felt very prepared when taking my first transportation assignment.

I have been volunteering for four years now, in various roles, and it makes my heart so happy.
Whether a volunteer spends an hour or five hours and regardless of the role, it means the world to care receivers, their caregivers, family and friends.

Volunteering has made a world of difference in my life as well. Having dual perspectives as both a care receiver and a care giver, I must say, that when it comes to being a part of this organization, the pleasure is all mine.