While National Volunteer Week is April 10-16, East Ridge at Cutler Bay will honor their community volunteers on Wednesday, April 20.
From within East Ridge and serving the external community, the efforts of residents help make a difference at East Ridge and bettering the lives of others.
Volunteering at East Ridge takes many different forms. There are those who contribute by serving on the various committees of the community’s Town Council which benefits the community. From beautification, historic preservation, health, food and beverage and religious life to name a few, there are monthly committee meetings that residents contribute the time, energy and suggestions.
Many activities found on the monthly calendar of events are clubs and special interest groups organized by residents. The “Persnickety Book Club” attracts residents who enjoy reading and discussing a monthly book selection while “Jim Jab” is a newly formed political discussion group forum. “Still Learning” hosts educational lectures and the Chorus brings together residents who enjoy singing.
“There are many opportunities should a resident want to organize a new group,” explains Rick Drew, director of sales.
When Jeff Haller moved to East Ridge, he was recruited by activity director Virginia Dugan to create a group. Since Jeff is an opera devote, “Opera Hatters” was born.
“I was really hoping to find people who claimed they didn’t like opera and convert them through education,” said Haller. “I was surprised when 28 people showed up to the first meeting.”
Now in existence for about 15 months, Haller organizes five sessions of discussion followed by the showing of an opera video. “Opera Hatter’s” has been renamed “Opera Converts”.
Haller also organized a group to attend the opera, “Rigoletto”, performed at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center; opera trips to the Arsht Center; and also an excursion to the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road. Through his contacts, students from the “Young Artist Program” of the Florida Grand Opera came to East Ridge for a 45-minute opera performance in February. “Opera Converts” meets twice a month.
Crafters organize The “Villager Crafters” and meet every Monday at 2 p.m. in the craft room at the community’s Lifestyle Center. Residents craft their own projects but come together to hash out ideas. Organizer Barbara Sims is wealth of inspiration.
“We bring ideas to the group and decide what we want to create,” she said. “We may start a craft together on a Monday and take projects home to complete them. Multiple projects can be underway fitting someone’s interest.”
Many items are created that residents can use at East Ridge. From refrigerator magnets, throw pillows, totes for assistive devices and door wreaths, there is an endless list of projects the crafters make. Items are sold twice a year to raise money for East Ridge.
Zoo Miami and Fairchild Gardens welcomes volunteers from East Ridge and many residents have given their time to these organizations for many years.
Research indicates volunteering offers many benefits. Dedicating time as a volunteers helps in making friends, expanding one’s personal network and boosting social skills. Even the smallest tasks can make a difference to the lives of people, animals and organizations.
“Volunteering at East Ridge helps people make new friends and meet their neighbors while sharing a common interest and having fun,” Drew explains.
Volunteering is good for both the mind and body. It’s found that volunteering increases self-confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction. When you’re doing good for others and the community, it provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
People can find new meaning and purpose in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life. Studies also indicate that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not.
“When people are consider a move to a life plan community like East Ridge, they should get to know the community and learn what will be available to pique their interests,” added Drew.