June 3, 2013 // 1:39 PM

The Value of Volunteering? Priceless

Written by Scott Miller

Minimum wage is $7.50 per hour. The average American salary is $50,000 per year. The value of volunteering? Priceless.

As Director of Volunteer Services at Garden Spot Village, Deborah Fast knows better than anyone else just how valuable volunteers really are. “Volunteering plays a central role in the life of Garden Spot Village. About 500 of our 600+ volunteers are GSV residents, which means they volunteer to make their own community a better place to live.” She describes the volunteers that she works with as committed, sacrificial, and willing to learn. Not all volunteers are on the front lines and visible to onlookers, but even the “hidden” tasks are of utmost importance to maintain the thriving community at GSV. “I can’t imagine even one day going by without our volunteers!” says Fast.

Fast can list a plethora of benefits that coincide with being a volunteer. David Eisner, CEO of the Community Service Corporation said, “Volunteering makes the heart grow stronger.” Fast elaborates, explaining that this quote is “referring to the report’s findings that volunteers have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease.”

During a presentation on “The Value of Volunteering” at the annual banquet for volunteers at GSV, Dale Beiler, CFO of GSV, shared a unique perspective on volunteering. He shied away from what might be expected – a financial report of the monetary value of volunteers. Instead, he directed the audience to the mission statement of GSV: “To enrich the lives of older adults as an expression of Christ’s love.”

Dale Beiler went on to focus on the introductory infinitive: to enrich. “Every volunteer touches the lives of residents either directly or indirectly,” he shared. It is through that relational connection that enrichment takes place. The breadth of the value of volunteering is extensive. According to Beiler, “Wouldn’t it be great if in addition to a book recording the hours and dollar value, we have a book that celebrates the stories that each of you experience?”

One individual, who requested to remain anonymous, has been volunteering for 6 of the 7 years that he has been a resident of Garden Spot Village. This volunteer participated in the training to partner with Caring Connections, a program at GSV that works to provide support for individuals with dementia or in assisted living. He spends a few hours a week with residents who are suffering from dementia. According to this volunteer, “I try to take the residents to an event that will bring back memories to them.” Some of these memory-reconstructing activities have included hymn sings, walks in the gardens, discussions about planes, and playing checkers.

The volunteer shared a story of one particular man who used to love to go with his life to the Lancaster Symphony at the Fulton Opera House. In order to bring him back to that positive memory, the volunteer brought him to a classical music concert at GSV. Throughout the concert, the resident “knew exactly where we were going and the music we were listening to. He was back at the Fulton with his wife.”

Why does this man sacrifice his time to give it to individuals like this music-loving man? “I do it because I’m convinced that they are remembering, and that they are trying to talk more, and stay focused…they always look forward to it; I always look forward to it. I just know the impact it’s having on them. You can see it.”

He claims “it’s never a chore… I just always look forward to it. I know that we are going to have some little moment that’s really going to stay with them and stay with me, too.”

He concluded by exhorting anyone who is possibly interested to give volunteering a try. “All I want to do is get people interested in doing what I do; the need is there. Dementia is on the increase. We need more people to step up and get involved.”

Countless methods exist for taking the first steps of involvement with volunteering. You may want to begin by seeking out opportunities that fit your passion, skills and life experience. Many people find volunteering from that perspective very rewarding. Another approach for the adventurous at heart is to ask an organization that supports and encourages volunteers, “How and where can I help?” Regardless of location and type, volunteering is guaranteed to enrich your life and the lives of others.

To learn more about volunteering at Garden Spot Village, contact Deborah Fast at [email protected] or (717) 355-6204. The process is rather straightforward. Those who are interested are asked to fill out a basic registration form and be prepared to receive training as necessary.

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