Independence and quality of life for Verde Valley seniors and those with disabilities. Learn from volunteer, John Wozniak.
The Neighbors are so appreciative. Being appreciated builds your self-esteem. What our volunteers tell us.
Retired folks and people without fulfilling jobs can find fulfillment volunteering.
VVCC is a network of people helping neighbors. As our population ages, every year there is an increasing need for assistance to elderly who want to stay in their own homes. At some point in time, most can no longer drive themselves. Without a convenient transit system, getting to medical appointments and running basic errands, such as grocery shopping, can be impossible.
VVCC fills this gap by providing over 2,200 older adults and adults with disabilities with transportation, shopping assistance, friendly visits, handyperson help and other services to help them stay in their own homes. Volunteer, John Wozniak, shares the importance of this goal to him. “Anything to help people stay in their own homes. It breaks my heart to see people sitting around in care centers.” He says, “neighbors are very gracious and very grateful.” He finds the work “very fulfilling”.
John Wozniak drives and provides handyman services to help with home maintenance.
After interviewing several volunteers for VVCC one phrase was repeated over and over. “The neighbors are so appreciative.” Being appreciated is very good for a person’s self-esteem. At VVCC appreciation comes, not only from the neighbors, but from the staff.
All requests for services come to the Call Center. Call Center staff call volunteers to find one who has the capability and availability to fill the request. It is not an easy job. Often several calls may need to be made before finding an available volunteer. Therefore, Call Center staff very much appreciate the volunteer that says, “Yes, I can do that.”
Volunteers tell us that, “Call Center staff are delightful people and easy to work with.”
Call Center specialist, Cassandra.
Many volunteers at VVCC are retired. Shannon Wiens, for example, says after a couple of months, “life was becoming boring.” She heard about VVCC and decided to give driving for VVCC a try. In her very first experience the neighbor was so pleasant and appreciative that Shannon has continued driving ever since, about four years.
Says Shannon, “You get a lot more out of volunteering than you put in.”
Shannon shops for neighbor, Sofia.
Deb Schwartz has been driving for VVCC for 12 years. She started when she retired and needed “something worthwhile to do with my time.” She drives neighbors to appointments, takes them shopping or does shopping for them, and a couple times a month she helps “Boots,” who is over 100 and has limited vision. Deb provides business assistance, helping him with his mail and bills.
What does Deb get out of her time volunteering? “It feels so good to help others.” This observation is echoed by other volunteers. One volunteer, who has a friend that complains and is unhappy, says, “Do something for somebody else and you’ll feel better.”
Deb and Boots.
Have you ever met a person who once worked at Langley and knew all the astronauts? How about a guy that was shot down in WWII and spent several years in a German prison camp? There are some very interesting people living in the Verde Valley and many of them are Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition neighbors.
Among the reasons volunteers give for working with VVCC, people with very interesting stories is a recurring theme. Hank Culbertson joined VVCC as a volunteer driver in June 2014. He likes the long-distance drives and frequently takes neighbors to appointments in Flagstaff. Hank enjoys getting to know the neighbors and hearing their life stories. He says, “I want to drive for Caregivers as long as I can.”
Wayne and one of his volunteer drivers. The plane he flew is in the background.
Drivers for the Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition can choose what kind of driving assignments they want to have. For example, Shannon only wants to drive people within Cottonwood. That works well, because many of the neighbors VVCC serves live, shop and have medical appointments in Cottonwood. Other volunteers like to learn their way around the Verde Valley, but prefer not to make longer trips.
Hank Culbertson particularly likes the long trips and frequently travels from Verde Valley communities to Flagstaff. He’s taken neighbors as far as Phoenix. Hank loves to drive and enjoys listening to volunteer stories as they go. Hank says, ““I want to drive for Caregivers as long as I can.”
Carol Lucas worked in insurance until retiring five years ago. Having worked all her adult life, Carol wanted to find something to keep her busy. “Volunteering for Verde Valley Caregivers really worked for me.”
After driving for a while, she was invited to work in the call center. “Boy, was that ever right up my alley!” Her career in insurance gave her a lot of experience in customer service. So now she works in the Call Center every Monday. That is a very busy day for the Call Center. She likes taking the neighbor requests and matching them up with a volunteer. “I love the phones and I love taking the calls from people and seeing what I can do for them.”
Many of our neighbors are feeling especially isolated at this time. If you love to chat on the phone, we need you to make friendly calls. This can be done from home.
Carol loves to tell retired friends she is going to work. "It makes me feel young!"
Verde Valley Caregiver Coalition volunteers appreciate the flexibility of scheduling. When volunteers sign up with VVCC they specify the amount of time they want to spend and the days of the week they will be available. There is no requirement to accept an assignment when they are called.
As volunteer, Carol Lucas says, “It’s the only thing I can think of where you can set your own days and your own hours. Also, you can specify the towns you want to cover. If you only want to cover the town you live in, that is fine. If you like to drive to Flagstaff, some of the neighbors have doctor appointments there.”
Eric Englestein says that what he likes best about volunteering for VVCC is that you can work when you want – you are not tied into a schedule. Even days that he volunteers he has time to do other things. He adds, “A person could volunteer as little as once a month. You can always fit this in.”
"You can always fit this in."
When Tony Isola’s wife was a neighbor. She received respite care from Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition volunteers before she passed away. Tony saw how valuable the service was to his wife and decided to do that favor for others. “They’re lonely and want to talk,” he says. Tony visits Donald, who is 96. They play games, read and “have an enjoyable time.”
From personal experience Tony says, “Respite visits are better than 1 Million bucks to a neighbor.”
“Respite visits are better than 1 Million bucks to a neighbor.”
Most Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition volunteers are retirees. Over VVCC’s 27-year existence some of the volunteers have become neighbors, themselves. When one is healthy and strong it is hard to imagine that at some time you might need the services VVCC provides. But as we age, sight and hearing begin to fail, and illness takes its toll.
Volunteering for VVCC gives you an awareness of all the help and services that are available to you with just a phone call. Volunteer now, and if/when you need it, VVCC will have caring volunteers to lighten your days and lend you a hand.
Volunteers receiving awards at the 2019 Volunteer Awards Luncheon.