All hearts are in for National Volunteer Appreciation Week, going through Saturday.
Every community has shining stars who donate time and energy to help make life better for others. Maybe they walk dogs awaiting homes at an animal shelter, welcome incoming travelers at Myrtle Beach International Airport, or brighten someone’s day through the valuable roles United Way and American Red Cross play in everyday life, sometimes after life throws a curve ball.
Surprise any volunteer you encounter with thanks, and if time permits, take some cues from these individuals interviewed, and find your own way to make a difference with a wealth of groups everywhere, maybe even right around the corner.
Join the perspectives about volunteering through the eyes and words of these three individuals:
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▪ Sarah Dellinger, Lower Cape Fear Hospice Mercy Care’s community outreach coordinator for Horry County, where the organization has begun expanded volunteer services across the area. Such efforts might include helping with visiting residents, celebrating a life event, and even turning a dream into a reality – as Harold Dyson, an avid square dance caller and dancer for many years, was treated to last month, at Kingston Nursing Center in Conway, where members of the Grand Strand Strutters and Round Dance Club. fulfilled his wish to attend and participate in a square dance one more time. (843-315-4249, 843-848-6480 or www.mercyhospice.org)
▪ Janis Palmer of the Burgess Community, who got into volunteering for Grateul Goldens Rescue of the Low Country, with her husband, Richard Palmer, when adopting a golden retriever from the group in 2007, Piper, after his rescue by police from a dangerous setting was published in a Sun News feature, and he lived for seven more years. (843-628-4033 or www.ggrlc.org)
▪ Lynn Prosser, adjutant and past commander of the auxiliary for Disabled American Veterans, Grand Strand Chapter 30 – for which her late husband, Carroll Prosser was commander for many years – and fourth junior vice commander for national DAV Auxiliary. (Grand Strand office at 2987 Church St , Myrtle Beach – by mail at P.O. Box 30637, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588 – with meetings at 7 p.m. first Thursday monthly. 843-448-6483 or www.dav.org.)
Question | How does every volunteer become an MVP for your good cause?
Dellinger | All my volunteers are MVPs. Let me quote from a speech I gave for Volunteer Appreciation Week last year: “One of my favorite quotes is ‘To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.’ As I look around the room, I see people from many different backgrounds, with different life experiences, and yet, you all have one thing in common: your willingness to give generously of your time to help others without any expectation of reward. You provide your support, skills, talents and abilities to give others hope and strength and courage to face another day. The quote, ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away; it is all of you doing, what you do, who take my breath away.”
Palmer | It’s experience and tenacity. It can be a thankless job with volunteering, but where you get the glory is not how well you did, as much as what you’re doing to help a dog have a fighting chance at being part of a family. ... To get a dog into a new setting, it;s the result of your heart and how you develop relationships, ... and seeing the dogs who come into a better life after you volunteer.
Prosser | Our main purpose is empowering veterans; we want them to be able to take care of themselves ... and do it with respect and dignity. Our main thing is to ... help them get to the right channels through the Department of Veterans Affairs to get the best chances to access the benefits and the help they’re entitled to and need, and we help them with the transition back into civilian life.
Q. | What hesitation or apprehension among any potential volunteer for your group gets cast away easily?
Dellinger | “99.9 percent of the time, ... with those who said, “I don’t think I can,” they step up to the plate. Once they start visiting with patients, they realize it’s not just for the patient; ... it’s also giving that person’s caretaker the rest and time they need to run errands, get out for a bit, or to just take a nap and not have to worry.
Palmer | If somebody wants to volunteer, you know he or she wants to do it. It’s different because each person his or her own talent. It might not be pounding the pavement, like I have done with six golf tournament fundraisers. We have transportation volunteers, who pick up the dogs and bring them to the prospective homes or veterinarians. We also have home-visit coordinators; we have people who will foster a dog for a week; and when we first get dogs, we have people who buy food for them. We have a form for new volunteers, asking what particular area would interest them.
Prosser | Most of our volunteers are connected to the DAV through a family member – or they served themselves – so they have a personal reason for wanting to volunteer and help. ... We also go out into the community, and need the business community to step up and help us, too, because we’re always trying to help our veterans get into housing and get jobs and education. ... One of the best things we do is our encouragement, because it’s very important to encourage our veterans to be patient while waiting on VA decisions about their claim and trying to get them in for a medical appointment. ... We’re here to support them and bear the burden of some of their stress, to help them through some of the waiting period.
Q. | What is the most important element, feeling or approach a volunteer can bring in delivering such good deeds?
Dellinger | In helping patients, we know they’re dying, but instead of helping them die, we’re helping them live while they die in comfort. ... We started a program a year ago in February called “This Is Your Life,” so we’re celebrating their lives now. I go in and interview the patients, ask them a list of questions, then we celebrate their life’s story. ... We’ve done family reunions and invited friends, family and other patients and we celebrate their lives. ... We’ve done 19 since last February, and they all have been different. Every life is a story yet to be told.
Palmer | It’s has to be that heart. ... It’s a big difference thnt a paid job. With volunteers, they don’t have to do it. The advantage is you’re already halfway there, because they’ve shown up, asking “What can I do to help?” What they bring is what they’re good at. ... We put our heads together. Somebody might be better at coordinating booths at festivals, ... and somebody does thank-you notes, because that person is good at writing. You have a volunteer for everything.
Prosser | One of the best assets is trust. We have a lot of veterans locally, and they’re not really able to get out there. Some of them might have too much pride or whatever, and they find it hard to ask for help sometimes. It’s probably trust and our support, and realizing they need the love, ... and we’re willing to give that unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.
Q. | Any special training needed for the roles in helping your respective cause?
Dellinger | We have volunteer orientation, with three hours in the office, then online orientation, for nine hours. Then we volunteers go out and see patients, I go with them. We have continuing education, too, every year.
Palmer | Although the golden retriever breed is known for being always happy, you will meet a dog who needs special care, and that’s where a little training comes in. ... It’s teaching that volunteer to handle a dog very gently. ... It’s really looking at the dog and deciding on the personality you see; you have to evaluate, because some dogs cannot be in a home with another dog, or with cats. ... When people volunteer, they get into the routine.
Prosser | You come in with your heart in the place and an open mind and willingness to help somebody, and the rest of it will fall into place. We are always willing to train new people and help them along the way. We have a lot of different ways they can help.
Q. | What untold or unwritten reward or satisfaction might the volunteer take home in the form of happiness even more than anything seen by the lucky recipient(s) of his or her time?
Dellinger | Once they see the different they’re making, in the caregiver’s and patient’s lives, it touches their own hearts. ... They come not looking for rewards, but for satisfaction from serving others.
Palmer | There is no price you can on that, when you have that feeling, “I helped save that dogs’ life.” ... Seeing a dog come out of a background of abuse or poor health, and putting the dog in in a home where he has unconditional love, and he gives unconditional love back: That sums it up; that’s what keeps us going.
Prosser | Anytime you volunteer and help somebody else, it’s always going to make you feel like you’ve accomplished a positive in your life, because you’ve made a difference in somebody else’s life.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.