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Volunteering means everybody gains

Civic health leads to individual health

Created date

April 16th, 2015
Nine Cedar Crest residents recently competed in a Senior Olympics Competition as part of the Pequannock Township team of 24 people. (Back row, from left) Donna Inez, Wayne Holling, Cathy Matich, Caroline Holling, Nancy Paliaga, and Ron Paliaga. (Front row
Nine Cedar Crest residents recently competed in a

The annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America report released in December shows that millions of Americans place service to others at a high priority. In 2013, 62.6 million Americans volunteered 7.7 billion hours—an estimated value of $173 billion. 

Closer to home in New Jersey, 1.45 million people volunteered in 2013. Of those 1.45 million people, people age 65–74 logged the most volunteer hours of all age groups. 

Maybe they’re onto something. 

Various reports comparing the health benefits of volunteering to different age groups show that older adults benefit the most from serving others. Volunteering provides both physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles may be changing. 

Strengthening the community

Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, emphasizes the value of volunteering in many ways. Its 185 resident-run activity groups provide people the opportunity to lead or participate in a volunteer activity that aligns with their interests. 

“We have an extremely active and independent community thanks to our resident-run groups,” says Volunteer Coordinator Lauren Corrente. “People donate their time to lead these groups, and they go out of their way to coordinate and prepare materials to make sure other residents can participate.”

As volunteer coordinator, Corrente assists residents with starting and running their groups, which include musical groups, a travel club, art classes, the Treasure Shop (an on-campus second-hand store), the TV studio, pastoral ministries, and hundreds more. 

Serving others

Volunteering comes in many shapes and sizes. 

Phyllis O’Reilly leads two watercolor classes weekly and welcomes newcomers every Thursday. “We were raised to believe you have to be born with creative talent, and we’re trying to change that,” she says.

Phyllis is passionate about introducing people to watercolor painting, despite its difficulty.

“I know that [watercolor painting] is a great stress reducer, and to see other people feeling that gives me great satisfaction,” she says. “I also like the interaction with other people. We help each other, we critique each other, and it’s a social thing as well as a physical thing.”

Phyllis has also served as president of the community’s Resident Advisory Council (RAC), which acts as a liaison between residents and management, enhancing communication. “Serving as the RAC president was very enlightening. I met lots of people, and I got to see a different side of things here at Cedar Crest.” 

Another volunteer, Marie Sprankel, has manned the Belmont Library—the community’s largest of three—for more than ten years. She does it, she says, for many reasons.

“My love of books attracts me to the library. It’s well used by the residents, and I get great pleasure and satisfaction in seeing it utilized,” she says, adding that she also enjoys working with the other volunteers. Across the three libraries, 32 volunteers help shelve books and manage the computerized card catalogue.

Blanche Blitzer spends her time at the Treasure Shop, which sells second-hand items donated by residents. All proceeds are donated to the resident care fund. Cedar Crest provides several options for residents who experience financial hardship through no fault of their own. The Residence and Care Agreement has all the details. 

“I do it because I get satisfaction knowing that so many people here care enough about Cedar Crest and the people living here to support it,” Blanche says. “And it’s payback for me because I get so much pleasure out of living here.”

She’s quick to add that she’s not alone in her efforts, which is true for almost all volunteer activities at Cedar Crest. “We have a lot of dedicated volunteers who all work very hard,” she says. 

Thanking those who give

In observation of National Volunteer Week, which runs April 12 – 18, Cedar Crest will host a weeklong celebration to thank its many volunteers. 

Tuesday, April 14, Bea Smith’s Traveling Clothing Store will set up shop inside the Woodland Commons Catering Room so residents and volunteers have the opportunity to shop just steps from their front doors. 

“It’s a treat for our volunteers and all of our residents as a ‘thank you,’” Corrente says. 

Wednesday, April 15, all volunteers are invited to an appreciation hour. “We’ll have all kinds of desserts prepared by our amazing chefs—everything from cupcakes and cookies to brownies and anything you can think of,” Corrente says. 

Volunteer Week activities also include the annual volunteer pancake breakfast on Thursday, April 16, for more than 200 resident volunteers. 

New this year, Volunteer Week concludes with the annual activities fair on Friday, April 17. Leaders from all resident-run groups will set up shop in the Woodland Commons Conference Center to showcase their club and answer questions from other residents. Cedar Crest will also premier its annual activities handbook, which it releases once a year. 

“Volunteer Week is a big deal at Cedar Crest, because volunteering is a big deal,” Corrente says. “Many people who live at Cedar Crest continue the volunteering they did before they moved, but even more people are finally finding the time to volunteer now that they live here. It’s exciting to see people discover a sense of purpose or try something they’ve never done.”