Being Inspired by Volunteerism

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do work-wise when I get out to Ann Arbor.  There are numerous options and areas of interest that I could pursue from banking, to teaching yoga, to not-for-profit work.

For the summer, I’m trying to get an idea of the “office side” of fundraising for an organization for which I’ve been volunteering over a number of years and for which I serve on the Advisory Board.  I’m currently posted in the Development Office at Stella Maris – a long-term care facility in Baltimore County.  I’m helping out with preparations for their annual crab feast fundraiser that raises money for hospice (end-of-life) care, along with researching potential grant opportunities through larger foundations for the facility in general.

In my research, I have discovered that a lot of these foundations focus on youth and education – certainly worthy and important causes.  But I am disheartened by the dearth of foundations that show a dedicated interest in the elderly.  Maybe I just haven’t found them yet?  (Please send me suggestions if you know of any!)  I get that helping kids is a feel good and inspiring purpose and that helping old folks isn’t quite as sexy, but shouldn’t we focus a bit on the old folks?  We’re all going to be old folks one day (hopefully we live that long).  Maybe people don’t like to think about aging, and reading grant proposals for the elderly forces us realize that we are getting older – Quick, pass me that anti-wrinkle cream!

From what I’ve seen, the staff members at Stella Maris are so caring and so welcoming.  Everyone says hello to one another in the hallways, including all of the residents, who seem to be smiling all the time, even as they are being pushed in a wheelchair up from medical services.  And a lot of the residents actually volunteer at the facility!  They visit hospice patients, bring their dogs around to cheer people up, and even stuff envelopes in the office.  You can tell the whole community is working toward a common goal, and the administration and staff are excellent at engaging the families of residents and patients, as well as the broader community.  It’s gratifying to see donations and hear calls that come from constituents in memory of friends and family who have passed away at Stella Maris that always seem so positive and full of glowing reviews and “thank you”s.  (And I’ve only been there a week!)

So, as I research potential job opportunities, it is hard to narrow down and pinpoint what would make me happiest.  I could easily see myself working in the finance or fundraising arm of a not-for-profit.

I do think that this experience with Stella Maris, coupled with my healthcare banking work, has helped me see how much I love interacting with people and trying to have a positive effect in their lives.  When I see patients in the hallway and they are smiling, it just makes me happy to know they are happy there and being well cared for.  You feel like you might be doing something in some small way to improve their lives…even if it’s just trying to raise money to renovate old bathrooms because the current tubs are tricky and unsafe to get into and out of if you just aren’t that spry anymore…or perhaps by raising awareness as to the need for people to give their time and money by writing a blog about it 🙂

I hope that someday soon our society will start shifting its focus toward care for the elderly.  With the aging population and growth of that demographic, we need to ensure that all of our loved ones are, and will be, taken care of in the best manner possible.  The need for grants and donations will only grow, and hopefully future foundation and community leaders will turn their attention to the elderly.  Because that will all be us one day and wouldn’t it be scary if there aren’t resources out there to take care of us.

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