National Volunteer Week (April 23-April 29) is an opportunity to honor and thank those who lend of their time and talent to make a difference in their communities. East Ridge at Cutler Bay, a life plan community, will join the rest of the nation in acknowledging those who graciously volunteer and dedicate their life to be of service to others.
The roots of National Volunteer Week dates back in Canada to the time of the WWII when women were celebrated for their part in supporting with war effort on the home front. In the U.S., President Richard Nixon established National Volunteer Week in 1974. It’s been a tradition that the current president issues a special proclamation in honor of volunteers.
A recent article in “The New York Times” quoted Linda Fried, a founder of the Experience Corps who is also dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health as saying, “People need purpose. They need a reason to get up in the morning.”
Within East Ridge, residents help to make a difference in bettering the lives of others. Volunteering at East Ridge takes many different forms.
For example, there are those who contribute by serving on the various committees of the community’s Town Council. From beautification, historic preservation, health, food and beverage and religious life to name a few, there are monthly committee meetings that residents contribute time, energy and suggestions.
Many of the activities found on the monthly calendar of events are clubs and special interest groups organized by residents. For example, The “Persnickety Book Club”, organized by Tag Marvel, attracts residents who enjoy reading and discussing a monthly book selection. Gary Sisler loves politics and created “Jim Jab”, a political discussion group forum. He also volunteers at Three Palms Assisted Living at East Ridge and geared a Wednesday discussion group, “Can We Talk” to the men living in assisted living.
The Chorus headed by Jackie Smith brings together residents who enjoy singing and periodically performing in front of live audiences.
Craft enthusiasts form “Villager Crafters” and meet weekly 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 for the group.
Bob Parkerson has found his gardening passion welcomed at East Ridge. He volunteers running the community’s Garden Shop open once a week on Tuesdays and works with a team of 10 residents maintaining and rehabilitating plants in the shade house.
Lending an extra pair of hands fulfills Skippy Rossi. She has been helping in the Lifestyle Department since moving to East Ridge 12 years ago. She loves being challenged and offers assistance doing whatever needs to be done to assist the staff. At age 85, she says she can’t wait to get up in the morning to see what the day may hold and find that every day is different.
“Volunteering at East Ridge helps people make new friends and meet their neighbors while sharing a common interest and having fun,” explains Virginia Duggan, Lifestyle Director.
Many residents also volunteer outside East Ridge, within the Cutler Bay vicinity and beyond.
Grass root efforts challenge Dr. Carolyn Garwood. Passionate about scientific research and helping future generations, she thought of her East Ridge neighbors when she learned of the need for participants in a University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine study to measure early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. By endorsing the study and introducing it to residents, they were more receptive to participate. When East Ridge began planning for a new skilled nursing and assisted living community, she spearheaded the research and guided the new care initiative, “Choice and Change”, that would be adopted and will serve seniors today and for the future.
Locally, Zoo Miami and Fairchild Gardens welcomes volunteers from East Ridge and many residents give their time to these organizations for many years. Not having to worry about home maintenance or preparing meals frees them up to volunteer.
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 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 well 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 considering a move to a life plan community like East Ridge, we encourage them to get to know the community and learn what volunteer opportunities are available that may pique their interests,” added Duggan.