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The gift of themselves

Eagle’s Trace volunteers offer time and talents to help others

Created date

December 13th, 2016
Eagle’s Trace Resident Services Coordinator Kristen Kennedy (left) and Executive Director Stephen Aigner (right) present John Bushkuhl with the Unsung Hero Award for his volunteer efforts that benefit the West Houston Erickson Living community.

Eagle’s Trace Resident Services Coordinator Kristen Kennedy (left) and Executive Director Stephen Aigner (right) present John Bushkuhl with the Unsung Hero Award for his volunteer efforts that benefit the West Houston Erickson Living community.

Shoppers are out in force this time of year, hunting for the perfect gifts for loved ones. At Eagle’s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston, there’s another group out in force that embraces the spirit of giving all year long.

Resident volunteers are sharing their time and talents to benefit others. That’s a gift you won’t find under the tree, but it’s one that makes a lasting impact at the West Houston community and beyond.

“There’s a robust spirit of volunteerism among our residents,” says Resident Services Coordinator Kristen Kennedy. “They seek out ways to help others.”

More time and energy to give

John Bushkuhl moved to Eagle’s Trace with his wife Chris in 2008.

“When our kids were young, my volunteer efforts centered on family life,” says John, father of five and a retired chemical engineer. “I coached little league baseball. Now I have more time and energy to give.”

These days, John channels most of his volunteer efforts toward the Treasure Chest, the on-site resale shop at Eagle’s Trace.

Most people downsize when they move to the West Houston community, resulting in extra items they don’t need in their apartment homes.

The Treasure Chest provides a solution for those goods, giving them new life and a chance to benefit the community. A group of volunteers collects donated items, prices them, and operates the store. Proceeds are poured back into the community through donations to three funds established at Eagle’s Trace.

The first, the Resident Care Fund, assists residents who, despite careful planning, outlive their financial resources. The Residence and Care Agreement has complete details.

The second fund, the Scholarship Fund, awards scholarships to students employed in dining services at Eagle’s Trace. The third is the Staff Appreciation Fund.

As chairman of the Treasure Chest, John spends part of each day immersed in his volunteer role. He says the beauty of living at a community like Eagle’s Trace is the wealth of experience and expertise represented by the resident population.

“We all have our niche,” says John. “Sometimes we’ll get a piece of furniture donated to the Treasure Chest that needs minor repair. I take it to the woodshop, and the woodworkers fix it. Then we’ve got a lady who makes sure that all donated sewing machines are in good working order. We’ve got another resident who services the donated vacuum cleaners. All these people are doing what they know how to do.”

Sharing talents

In 2015, residents of Eagle’s Trace logged more than 30,000 volunteer hours. From January through September 2016, the number of volunteer hours climbed past 22,000. And that’s just the people who kept track and reported their time.

“I’m sure the actual number is much higher,” says Kennedy. “Our residents are humble. They give without expecting anything in return.”

To honor the contributions of the community’s resident volunteers, Eagle’s Trace organizes an annual volunteer appreciation luncheon. At this year’s event, John Bushkuhl received the community’s Unsung Hero Award. Residents nominate and vote for the award recipient each year.

For John, the award sitting on his shelf is nice, but it’s not the reason he gives back every day. 

“Volunteerism is a natural thing,” he says. “Life is better when we’re helping others.”

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