By Mark Stevens
April 23 through 29 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, a time to recognize those millions of Americans, including thousands in Chautauqua County, who give their time to a cause close to their heart.
As part of an ongoing commitment to give back to a community that’s given so much to them, people with disabilities at The Resource Center, as well as their support staff, are shining examples of volunteerism success. We’ll spotlight some of our dedicated volunteers this week.
Part 1: Caring For Our Four-Legged Friends
A number of TRC service recipients generously give of their time volunteering at the Chautauqua County Humane Society on Strunk Road in Jamestown. Sherry Smith and Nancy Lewis are two of them.
“I like to play with the cats and play with the baby kittens,” said Sherry. “I really enjoy myself. It makes me feel good.”
Sherry, who goes to the Humane Society every Friday, lives in a TRC home in Frewsburg. She participates in TRC’s Community-Based Services Program. Nancy, who lives in Jamestown, spends about three days a week at the animal shelter through TRC’s Community Pre-Vocational Program.
“I love cats and dogs,” said Nancy. “I feed the cats and it makes me feel happy.”
In addition to feeding and playing with the animals, Nancy also washes their dishes, folds laundry and cleans windows.
“She does it for the job experience so she can learn what is expected of her working at a job in the community,” said Janet Laurin, TRC Vocational Instructor. “She gets to work with people and learn skills.”
“This is a great opportunity. It makes the people we support very happy, and it also helps the animals become more comfortable with people, which increases their chances for adoption,” said Michelle Lutgen, Supported Living Specialist. “The people we support are a very important part of our community, and they have a lot of qualities that are very unique and important in building our community.”
Not only do the service recipients and the animals they care for benefit, but the Humane Society does as well.
“The volunteers from The Resource Center are a huge asset to our community-based organization and help out with pivotal jobs here at the shelter,” said Hannah Raynor, CCHS Director of Community Relations. “Not only do the volunteers and their support staff build a great rapport with the animals, but the staff as well. We’ve developed a good working relationship with them and we rely on each other. It’s a win-win.”
Other TRC volunteers, like Jocelyn Monaco, help raise money for various Humane Society fund-raisers.
“It’s really fun, and I like helping out.” said Jocelyn.
The work at the Humane Society doesn’t stop there. As part of TRC’s Discoveries Day Habilitation Program, 16 people volunteer at the shelter at different times throughout the week. Five are certified to work and socialize with the cats in the cat colony, and of that number two or three usually spend Friday mornings volunteering. They work to train and prepare the cats to transition into loving homes and become part of a positive human cohabitating environment.
“For them, this, among other volunteer opportunities provided throughout the week, seems to be a key component to inclusion and contribution to their community,” said Joshua Johnson, Discoveries Activity Leader. “Our volunteers are friendly, committed and truly want to be part of a team accomplishing good work for their community.”
Part 2: Traveling to Serve the Community
This is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and as we continue to shine a light on people with disabilities who give back to the community, we need not look any further than the Travelers Group, part of the Day Habilitation Program on Lake Shore Drive in Dunkirk.
These volunteers hit the road every week and take part in Meals on Wheels. They start at St. John’s Church in Dunkirk, where the delivery van drops off coolers filled with hot and cold meals. TRC volunteers then deliver to a number of people across different neighborhoods.
“They are happy to see me when they answer the door,” said Jose Reyes Colloze, a member of the Travelers. “It’s easy to do. It makes me happy, and it feels good that I’m giving back to the community.”
“It helps them get out and meet people. It gives them a chance to get out in the community and learn how to work on things like identifying street names and addresses,” said Karl Erb, Direct Support Professional. “It’s a good way to integrate the folks in the community, and also check on those who are elderly to make sure they’re OK.”
TRC volunteers have been delivering for Meals on Wheels for almost a decade and are a key resource to the program.
“They serve as a lifeline to area homebound seniors. For some of our clients, volunteers are the only human connection they have during the course of their days,” said Deb Pacos, Executive Director of Dunkirk-Fredonia Meals on Wheels. “We are tremendously grateful for The Resource Center’s continued commitment and support. We simply could not accomplish our mission without their dedicated team of volunteers. They are there for us through thick and thin, rain or shine.”
Part 3: Hand-Picked for the Garden
Today’s salute to the men and women at The Resource Center who volunteer in our community takes us to the Alternatives Day Habilitation Program at TRC’s Michael J. Raymond Center on Jones & Gifford Avenue in Jamestown. That’s where we find members of the Pickin Club’ hard at work turning recycled items into works of colorful and imaginative art.
Recently, the group took part in the GROW Jamestown event at the Northwest Arena in Jamestown. There, they showed off recycled bowling balls and bowling pins that they had transformed into masterful garden sculptures. The recycled items made by the Pickin’ Club members are sold, with the proceeds going back into the program to buy more secondhand items or to fund other interests that the group members have.
“It’s really fun to do, and I like doing it,” said Tom Claus of Westfield. “I like to help people’s garden look good, and it gives me something to do.”
“Members of the group, like Tom, find it very rewarding,” said Darlene Lascola, Direct Support Professional. “It gives people with disabilities self-worth and is a way for them to give back.”
Part 4: Lending a Helping Hand
We conclude our recognition of Volunteer Appreciation Week with a look at how one of TRC’s homes gives back to the community. Residents of the C-6 home at the Intermediate Care Facility on Foote Avenue in Jamestown have chosen to assist Community Helping Hands, located in the Gateway Center on Water Street in Jamestown. Community Helping Hands is a faith-based organization that was founded in 2001. The organization, in-part, provides emergency assistance to local families in need of clothing, household items and furniture.
“We have donated a lot of things that were no longer needed in the home from the staff and residents,” said Lisa Peterson, Residence Manager at C-6. “Usually, a staff member and a few of the residents take the things down and drop them off. The residents are excited about seeing others and just being out in the community.”
“We are extremely grateful for The Resource Center or any group that donates or volunteers, because we serve a lot of people in need in the community,” said Patricia Sharp, Community Helping Hands Office Manager. “We are always looking for and in need of volunteers as well.”