Merriam Webster defines the word ‘volunteer’, as a person who does work without getting paid to do it. Although the definition put forth by dictionary.com says virtually the same thing, I prefer their verbiage – a volunteer is a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. Why would anyone is his/her right mind be willing to do this? Volunteering is a great way to fills one’s time in retirement, and it’s also an easy way to meet others in your community – whether it be at school, at church or just in the local neighborhood. Some people volunteer in order to develop new skills and others do it because of the proven health benefits it provides. While giving their time benefits volunteers in many ways, it is not why they do it. I believe it is a calling – a calling to help others who are not as fortunate as they are; or to participate in the education and enrichment of their children; or to raise money for an organization for which they are passionate; or to aid people who have survived disaster. The list goes on and on. Yes, volunteers seem to be fueled by compassion and a deep desire to make the world a better place.
Americans volunteer in huge numbers. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63 million Americans gave 8 billion hours of volunteer service in 2016. Using the national estimated per-hour value assigned to these hours by Independent Sector*, the total monetary value of that service is a staggering 193 million dollars.
Taking that down to a local level, our Tri-Lakes Cares volunteers worked a total of 15,894 hours in 2016, which averages out to just under 75 hours per volunteer. The 2016 per-hour volunteer value in the State of Colorado is $25.97. A quick calculation shows us that just one volunteer working an average number of hours annually, saves Tri-Lakes Cares nearly $2,000 each year. As a result we are able to make those funds available to clients by way of added services. The $2,000 saved might enable us to provide school supplies for 160 kids. Or, we may use it to cover the cost of our entire Snack Pack program for ten weeks. Again, this is the impact of just one volunteer.
National Volunteer Appreciation Week is Sunday, April 23 through Saturday, April 29. It’s a time to thank volunteers everywhere for a job well-done. A simple thank you hardly seems adequate, but it’s all we’ve got.
To our TLC volunteers: You come and faithfully serve our clients week after week, month after month, year after year. We are inspired by your grace and professionalism. We are awed by your generosity and commitment. We are amazed by your talent. You are stellar, and we are honored to know you. From the bottom of our hearts……THANK YOU!!!
*A national membership organization that brings together a diverse set of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations to advance the common good.
March 25 through 31 is “National Physicians Week”! Organized by Physicians Working Together, this week is an opportunity to highlight and thank those doctors across the country who provide quality care, especially those in rural or minority communities or serving disadvantaged populations. Patients and colleagues can help show their support by spreading the news of their good work through social media and thanking them with a red carnation.
We would like to issue a BIG THANK YOU to Dr. Robert Gibbs, the Penrose-St Francis volunteer physician who provides medical care and prescription services to our clients. Dr. Gibbs works closely with Nurse Cindy Stickel, the Faith Community Nurse from Penrose-St. Francis in our Neighborhood Nurse Center to make sure clients have access to medical care, medical referrals and medical advice who otherwise might not be able to do so. He is available by appointment, every Tuesday morning.
Dr. Gibbs was the catalyst for the medical clinic at Tri-Lakes Cares! In 2008, Dr. Gibbs approached Jackie Sward, a Faith Community Nurse previously employed by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services regarding the health needs of the local community and possible gaps in care for the low-income or those who were uninsured or underinsured. He offered to volunteer his services as a family practice physician.
On May 20, 2008, the Tri-Lakes Volunteer Outreach Clinic was opened, housed by Tri-Lakes Cares. In the early years of the clinic, Dr. Gibbs met with and treated up to 15 patients per week, especially those who experienced financial difficulties during the “Great Recession.” In 2010, he consulted and treated with 449 duplicated patients.
Those client numbers have dropped in recent years due to the Affordable Care Act, with more people having access to affordable insurance or qualifying for Medicaid and other insurance. In 2016, his case load has dropped to 25 clinic visits.
But, Dr. Gibbs continues to serve with compassion. Even if there is only one patient scheduled for an appointment, he will be there to see that patient. He sees each patient as an individual and devotes as much time as needed to ensure the best medical approach and care is provided.
One patient wrote “…he genuinely cares for his patients regardless of their ability to pay for services.”
A volunteer noted “His gentle treatment of his patients and the clients we serve here is very heartwarming to watch. He takes time to know the individual he is serving and understands not only their medical needs, but also their special life’s circumstances. I feel it gives him a window, or a clue, into their lives.”
In some ways, you could almost think of Dr. Gibbs as the “friendly country doctor” but he is so much more than that at Tri-Lakes Cares. To clients he is a trusted confidant and expert, while to volunteers and staff he is a dear friend and co-worker.
We are truly blessed to have Dr. Gibbs with us! Thank you for all that you do every day and especially at Tri-Lakes Cares!
We are so thankful for our partnerships with our local community through service-oriented clubs and organizations, youth groups, churches, businesses and others, who live and work in the Tri-Lakes Region.
In an effort to acknowledge all these wonderful groups, we will be posting periodic blog postings and also updating the “Our Supporters” section of our website.
For this first posting, we are high-lighting the various service clubs in our region who support us. These organizations, and their members, host fund-raisers that benefit Tri-Lakes Cares, volunteer, donate goods, services and advocate for the work we do in the community.
Monument Hill Kiwanis Club: Their motto is “Helping Kids & Youth, Building our Community, and Having Fun while doing it” and this is epitomized each year in October when they host their “Empty Bowls” fundraiser bringing the community together. Attendees select an empty bowl, crafted by local potters, and sample soups donated by local restaurants. In conjunction with the Empty Bowls, Tri-Lakes Cares hosts the silent auction portion of the event. Without the tireless work of the members of the club, this event would not be as successful as it is. You can view photos from last year’s event here – scroll down. And THIS YEAR’S EVENT on October 5!
Beyond “Empty Bowls,” the Kiwanis conduct food drives for us with a huge focus on “Harvest of Love.” Members of the club help with holiday distributions in November and December. And, this year, they helped facilitate the donation of desktop computers and monitors for our clients in partnership with Blue Star Recycling.
Tri-Lakes Lions Club: We have enjoyed a great partnership with the Tri-Lakes Lions Club. They provide financial support for clients who are seeking assistance with vision needs as well as to our “Help Yourself” area of the pantry, providing funds to purchase fresh produce.
In June, they hosted a fishing derby at Palmer Lake (scroll down to see photos), collecting canned food donations as the entry fee for the kids who participated. And on September 19th, they are hosting a golf tournament at The Club of Flying Horse with a portion of the proceeds designated for Tri-Lakes Cares.
Tri-Lakes Women’s Club: The mission of the Tri-Lakes Women’s Club is to support the Tri-Lakes community through charitable and educational endeavors by raising and distributing funds to assist qualified organizations and promoting the education of its members and the community through instructional programs. For the past 40 years they have held their annual spring event – Pine Forest Spring Show – to raise funds. In addition, they hold a fall event – this year a food and wine tasting event to be held at Spruce Mountain Ranch in September called “Harvesting Hope.” The funds raised at these events, they support various organizations through a grant-making process. We have been fortunate to receive funds to purchase items (carts, filing cabinets, tables, etc.) for both Tri-Lakes Cares and Hangers to Hutches to help with daily operations.
Additionally, the members of the club have conducted numerous food drives to benefit our pantry and have participated in the annual “Giving Tree” program which helps us provide gifts to children and senior citizens in need in our community.
American Legion Tri-Lakes Post 9-11: For the past three years Post 9-11 has provided us with grants to specifically help with the emergency financial needs of our military and veteran clients. In order to raise funds, they conduct weekly bingo games on Saturday nights in The Depot Restaurant at Palmer Lake (did you know that the Post 9-11 actually operates the restaurant?). Visit their website for details on how to participate!
Sertoma: We have been grateful and fortunate for the support of two Sertoma clubs in our area. Sertoma is an international service organization whose members are dedicated to volunteerism and philanthropy in SERvice TO MAnkind. Their main focus is assisting individuals with hearing and hearing loss issues, but their support goes beyond their primary mission.
Legacy Sertoma: Legacy Sertoma continues the legacy of the Sertoma mission and support for the community in the Tri-Lakes area. Traditionally, they have raised funds to support our holiday programs in November and December ensuring that those in need or financial stress can enjoy a holiday meal and gifts (for youth and seniors).
Gleneagle Sertoma: In response to the growing Gleneagle neighborhoods in the mid-1980’s, Gleneagle Sertoma was formed. It is the largest Sertoma club in the immediate region and hosts its annual “Spirits of Spring” event to raise funds to benefit a number of non-profits in the area. We are grateful to have been the beneficiary of past events. Members of the club have also collected school supplies and held food drives to fill our pantry shelves.
Knights of Columbus, St. Peter’s Council #11514: The Knights are a fraternal order of Catholic men who work to support various charitable organizations in the community. Each year they provide financial support to our programs and services, while 12 of their members volunteer on a regular basis in our food pantry. Other causes they support include Special Olympics, School District 38’s special education department and St. Peter Catholic School. They also provide scholarships to students to attend the parochial school. Funds are raised through pancake breakfasts Sunday mornings following mass at St. Peter Catholic Church and spaghetti dinners. Their biggest fundraiser is the pancake breakfast they host each year at the Fourth of July parade.
Thank you to all of these groups for their support! We couldn’t do it without you!
Please watch for future posts thanking other groups and donors!
By Julie Brown, Programs Manager
May was National Older Americans Month, highlighting the important roles that senior citizens play in their communities. From contributing to social networks to serving the community through volunteer work, older Americans are an important part of the areas in which they live. Seniors touch our lives every day, whether they are volunteering their time to improve the lives of those around them, or reaching out to friends and neighbors for a helping hand.
According to the National Council on Aging, “Over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure—living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level ($29,425 per year for a single person). These older adults struggle with rising housing and health care bills, inadequate nutrition, lack of access to transportation, diminished savings, and job loss.” Many of our retired clients are on a fixed income and must carefully budget their income in order cover all of their expenses each month. Unfortunately, many seniors are faced with the devastating decision of having to choose between their required medications or having enough food to eat. We recognize this issue and understand that seniors, who do not have the ability to earn any more income, may never reach self-sufficiency. With that in mind, we do all that we can to support our senior clients and provide them with services that help them save money that can be spent on necessities such as medications.
We serve many seniors through various assistance programs, some of which are specifically geared towards assisting clients over the age of 60. The Senior Groceries program provides a bag of groceries that is personalized for each senior, based on their dietary needs and personal tastes. A team of dedicated volunteers calls each client enrolled in the program to ask about their dietary needs and food preferences to generate a list of items to be included in their monthly bag of Senior Groceries. These phone calls serve another purpose – a chance for TLC to touch base with the seniors and have a conversation about how they’re doing in general and remind them that we are here to help.
In addition to the Senior Groceries Program, TLC clients have access to other food assistance programs including Help Yourself, Supplemental Groceries and holiday meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Clients can receive medical services through the Penrose St. Francis Neighborhood Nurse Mission Outreach Program, staffed by Nurse Cindy Stickel. Clients can also speak with a volunteer Healthcare Advocate, who can offer guidance to clients when applying for health insurance. Tri-Lakes Cares can also provide a wide variety of financial assistance that is determined based on the need of the individual client.
Older Americans Month has provided an opportunity to reflect on the role that seniors play in our community. Most of the volunteers who serve Tri-Lakes Cares and enable us to run day-to-day are over the age of 60. The National Council on Aging states that some of the benefits of seniors volunteering are that “Older volunteers report greater life satisfaction than non-volunteers and that new relationships and making a difference provide a greater sense of purpose in life for older Americans.” Without the compassion, valuable insights and tremendous skills of senior volunteers, Tri-Lakes Cares would not be able to impact clients and the community in the many ways that we currently do.
If you know of a senior in need or have questions about senior services in our community, please contact us. In some cases, we will be able to provide assistance (such as through the Senior Groceries program) and in other cases we will able to provide referral information to other organizations.
On Saturday, November 21, Tri-Lakes Cares’ Staff and Volunteers distributed holiday groceries to 149 local families in need. Each bag included the Thanksgiving basics – stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie mix, etc. – and each family was able to choose between a turkey, ham or chicken to prepare for their holiday celebration. Although it was very cold that day, we all enjoyed ourselves. After all, isn’t Thanksgiving really about giving?!
As often happens when participating in events like this, we at TLC began reflecting on what it is we are thankful for. Our answers were varied: football (the Broncos in particular), family, a reliable vehicle, healthy foods to eat at home, the opportunity to travel, our children, Serrano’s coffee, and more. And after we reflected on what it is we are thankful for, we took a minute to think about how many of the things we are thankful for, our clients go without. Our clients often cannot afford cable to watch the Broncos’ game or a reliable vehicle or healthy foods. Certainly travel is out of the question as well as the occasional splurge for a cup of coffee.
We are so grateful for what we have, but we are also grateful for the opportunity to be a resource for our neighbors in need. Maybe we can’t pay for every cup of Serrano’s coffee or buy each of our clients a new car, but we can alleviate the financial burden experienced during an unforeseen medical emergency, the loss of a job, or even the reality of living in chronic poverty.
So what about you? What are you thankful for this year?