Volunteer Spotlight – Emily

Elaine Whitford Give_Receive_Care

Emily has been volunteering with The Center for Volunteer Caregiving since August 2021. At that time, she had recently moved to Raleigh after living in California for 10 years and did not know anyone in the area. The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to connect with others in her community so she actively sought out volunteer opportunities.

She found The Center for Volunteer Caregiving through an internet search, and the mission really resonated with her. She liked the idea of providing support to seniors so they could remain living in their home as long as possible. Having worked in a healthcare setting, she understood the desire to be independent and the difficulties in finding the necessary assistance. Emily also liked the fact that this volunteer opportunity allowed her to volunteer in an ongoing capacity as opposed to a one-day service project. Lastly, she found the diversity of volunteer roles appealing and liked the schedule flexibility that The Center’s volunteer opportunities offered. Emily felt she could really make an impact here.

Currently Emily volunteers with both the Caregiver Respite and Transportation programs. She gets into a rhythm with her respite families and usually has a set day and time that works for both her and the caregiver. These visits help anchor her week. When she volunteers with transportation she can check the online ride calendar the week before and see where giving a ride will fit into her schedule. Emily commented on the ease of using the online ride shift calendar and appreciates how it will map out the directions for her.

Emily’s favorite part of volunteering is the conversations she has with The Center’s clients. When she drives someone for the first time, they always find something to talk about such as sports or travel. She realized that even with someone who seems so different, there are always shared interests and commonalities. “Moments to make those connections is what makes us feel human.” Emily has a few care receivers she really enjoys driving and will look for them on the ride calendar. She also keeps an open mind in signing up for someone new. Emily laughed and shared a time where one care receiver asked her what she was planning to do for her spring break. She said “I must look younger than I am . . . because I have not had a spring break in many years!” Emily is not new to driving as she has driven the entire length of the country six times! On Interstate 80 from New York to San Francisco, Interstate 40 from Wilmington, N.C. to Barstow, Calif., and from Seattle to Asheville. 

Emily also has found her Caregiver Respite visits to be very rewarding. When she arrives, she can see the look of relief on the caregiver’s face which she finds amazing. After the respite visit, she can see the difference those hours make for the caregiver. They appear “brighter and refreshed” and are “appreciative and joyful”. This program allows the caregiver to keep their loved at home where they want to be. Unfortunately, Emily has had several of her care receivers pass away, however they were able to stay home until the end and pass peacefully on their and their family’s terms.

Emily recommends to other volunteers not to do too much: “Don’t over commit and do too much at once and get burned out. Keep this in mind early in your volunteering and decide what is a good amount and works for you. Although it breaks my heart for rides to go unfilled, I know I can’t do everything.” Emily graciously gave a shout out to the staff at The Center for Volunteer Caregiving. “You are so compassionate and caring for every person you interact with and I can sense how much you care for the people you work with, and in caring for volunteers.”