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Cheers to volunteers

Here’s to your health

Created date

April 13th, 2016
Resident Volunteer Julie Schmieg

Resident Volunteer Julie Schmieg runs Julie’s Jewels, a department of the Treasure Shop. She estimates that she spends more than 50 hours a month volunteering.

It’s National Volunteer Month—a time to improve your health.


Yes, that’s right, health. According to the Corporation of National and Community Service, a growing body of research indicates a strong relationship between volunteering and health. The research indicates that those who volunteer experience lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

That’s not news to Erickson Living Director of Operations Jeff Watson. He says volunteering is “part of what makes for a happy, constructive, enjoyed culture, which is why our residents enjoy living on our campuses so much.”

At local Erickson Living community Cedar Crest, in Pompton Plains, N.J., Pastoral Ministries Manager Bert Moore, who manages the volunteer program, says volunteering “adds a dimension for residents that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

Fulfilling a need

Watson theorizes that, based on statistics from across Erickson Living communities, as people age they become more interested in making a difference and more likely to volunteer. By providing so many various volunteer opportunities on site, Erickson Living communities like Cedar Crest fulfill a need for retirees. 

In fact, Watson says, “Clearly, one of the things market intelligence finds is that people who are nearing retirement age find opportunities to volunteer important.”

At Cedar Crest, residents have at least 185 different opportunities to volunteer on campus. That’s the current number of groups, clubs, and activities at the community. And they are all organized and managed by residents, with logistical help from Moore.

People volunteer in any number of interest groups and activities—from religious organizations to choral groups to the on-site woodshop, among many others. 

While many people also volunteer outside of the community, it’s a plus to have so many opportunities available without having to leave campus, especially when the weather turns sour.

Another side of volunteering

At Cedar Crest, volunteer activities might look a little different than what one would typically envision. While there are plenty of opportunities to collect canned goods, knit baby hats and lap blankets, or make sandwiches for the needy, many other opportunities exist that allow residents to simply do something they enjoy or learn a new hobby—like how to operate a TV camera in the on-site TV studio.

Each interest group fills a different need and appeals to different people. “By volunteering to run the group, they are creating the opportunity to offer an activity through their skills, hobbies, and passions,” Moore says. 

A well-oiled philanthropic machine

Interest groups also create opportunities for neighbors to socialize, meet others with similar interests, and fulfill the needs of their neighbors.

The Treasure Shop combines all aspects of volunteering into one well-oiled philanthropic machine. 

An on-site resale store, the Treasure Shop accepts donations of unwanted furniture, jewelry, and other household items from residents and resells them. All profits benefit the Resident Care Fund. When residents experience an unforeseen change in their financial situation for reasons beyond their control, Cedar Crest provides several options for them to protect their future. The details are in the Residence and Care Agreement.

“The Treasure Shop fully defines volunteering here at Cedar Crest,” says Philanthropy Manager Lauren Corrente. “Residents run it completely. They mange scheduling, collect donations, price items, and display everything for sale.”

Julie Schmieg manages a portion of the Treasure Shop, called Julie’s Jewels. She cleans, repairs, prices, and displays donated jewelry to raise money for the Resident Care Fund. 

She says the items are priced fairly, so everybody benefits—the donor, the buyer, and the small percentage of neighbors who utilize the Resident Care Fund.

And she benefits as well. “I do it because it’s something productive. It gives me an opportunity to give back when I’ve received all my life. And I enjoy it. I get a lot of reward for myself from volunteering,” she says.

From 2001 to 2015, the Treasure Shop brought in $500,000, all of which was donated to the Resident Care Fund.

While there are too many volunteers and activities to list, Moore says, “Without our volunteers, Cedar Crest would be an entirely different community. Our volunteers make it the vibrant, active community it is.”