It's time well spent
Volunteers enjoy rewards that mean far more than money

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 17/99) - They say the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice.

Aven Manor volunteers Christine Kobrzynski, Heather Lalonde and Cathy Reid give selflessly of their time, and are rewarded with friendships, love and an outlook on life that only the elderly can provide.

"I've been passionate about older people for as long as I can remember," Reid, who delights Aven Manor residents with manicures, says.

"I think we all have our own fears and concerns about aging but I see beauty in every elderly face -- you can see courage and spirit in each of them. It's something that demands respect."

When asked to describe how she feels when volunteering at Aven Manor, words like love, warmth and sharing roll off her tongue.

"I truly get more back than I ever give through volunteering with the elderly," she says.

Kobrzynski also offers her nail-care expertise at the manor. Of course, caring for nails is just a means to enjoy conversation and company.

"In a sense, the friends I've made through volunteering have become an extended family of sorts," Kobrzynski said.

"From the first day I was here, I never considered them elderly people. They're all unique individuals who have a lifetime of stories to tell."

Heather Lalonde started volunteering at Aven Manor seven years ago with her friend, Betty Stevens. Stevens is now an Aven Manor resident. Lalonde is still volunteering at the Manor.

"I think youth today should get involved because it's an opportunity for them to find love and acceptance, which many aren't receiving in their day-to-day lives," Lalonde says.

"We live in a society that's very segregated. There are pockets of lonely people everywhere who could be getting together."

Aven Manor activity coordinator, Raija McClelland, said volunteers do everything from writing letters for the residents to playing music, going for walks and gardening. She said no matter what the activity, when seniors interact with volunteers it relieves loneliness, raises self-esteem and helps improve their memory.

"Interacting with seniors benefits them spiritually, physically, socially and mentally," McClelland said.

"The more interaction they have with volunteers, the more they interact with each other."

When asked about the volunteers who visit with her, Aven Manor resident Marion Price smiles broadly. She's pleased to have an opportunity to say her piece on such an important topic.

"You feel free to talk to volunteers and tell them things you wouldn't tell other people," Price says.

"They listen to you and I think they're very special people. They take our minds off ourselves and it's wonderful that they come."