What a difference a volunteer makes!
In 2015 at age 52 Ann McWalter sustained a traumatic brain injury which ended her career as a physical therapist overnight. “I wanted to be a physical therapist since I was 14. My career gave me a sense of identity, purpose and meaning. I loved the challenge of figuring out how to help people with their physical limitations, and I loved the opportunity to meet so many new people through my patient population. I struggled with how to feel anything similar again.” With the help of some online searches, a need for meaning to her life, and a deep inner strength for survival, Ann found opportunities that have made her the accomplished volunteer she is today. Ann has taught courses in values clarification, mindfulness, and introductory cognitive behavior therapy at Emerson Hospital. She has volunteered with Springwell as a medical escort providing older adults with rides to appointments and as a nursing home ombudsman listening to and advocating for the concerns of residents in nursing homes and rest homes. Each of these roles has helped numerous people in Massachusetts and has helped Ann find some meaning and purpose again.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Ann saw another opportunity to make a difference as a home delivered meals driver for Springwell. Immediately after delivering her first few meals, Ann knew this was the most satisfying volunteer role for her. “There is a different feel to it. The sense of purpose and reward is there at every door each day. I have always had a soft spot for the elderly and have often worried that as a society we do not have enough good systems for helping older adults when needs arise. Every door has a person with a story behind it.”
Social distancing means that Ann does not get to hear the stories of these long lives, but she hopes her smile and greeting when she delivers the meal is a bright spot in the day. Ann is happy to provide not only the nutritional food but the reminder that someone cares about them during this isolating time. “English is not the first language of many so there may not be a lot of words shared, and still the universal gestures of gratitude are noteworthy. These are wonderful older folks, and I am happy Springwell exists to provide meals for them. I feel I am serving an important purpose. I wish I knew about Springwell when I was working as a PT. Many of my senior patients may have benefitted from the services. I hope more people will learn about Springwell or the comparable Aging Service Access Point for their town and utilize the services if needed or perhaps volunteer.”
The home delivered meals volunteer driver program has rapidly responded to changing safety and social distancing protocols, balancing the need for safe food handling, and protecting both vulnerable seniors and generous volunteers. As a provider of essential services, Springwell has been open throughout the pandemic with a focus on the most important thing: the health and well-being of the seniors being served. While other businesses are slowly beginning to reopen in phases, Springwell’s need for more volunteers continues. If you would like to join Ann and the more than 90 other volunteers making a difference, learn more at https://springwell.com/volunteer/ or contact Volunteer Program Manager at 617-926-4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.