Cape Cod Chronicle Article 7/24/2014
by Lesley Gordon
Celebrating Nauset Neighbors
When I heard about Nauset Neighbors last year I felt a visceral sense of excitement, of hopefulness. Shortly after, I signed up to be one of 290 volunteers offering services for our aging population on Cape. Nauset Neighbors is a 100 percent volunteer not-for-profit organization. Our mission, to help members remain independent and stay in their homes as long as possible, provides a framework for the services we offer. We work in support of and collaboration with the professional organizations in each town. And now, Chatham is the newest town in our community.
We provide services that a good neighbor might offer. For example, these include transportation for medical appointments, rides to the hairdresser or barber, food shopping and local errands. We also will visit with a member, offer help with a new cell phone or computer, provide handyman services and gardening assistance. Volunteers may develop caring relationships with our members over time. Many of us feel blessed by the opportunity to contribute.
Volunteers decide when and where they offer their services. They decide how often they volunteer and what specific services interest them. Some enjoy helping with mail in the home; others participate by driving members to medical appointments. Some of us specialize in one or two types of services, in one or two areas of the Cape. Others get a kick out of “trying on” several different opportunities. Some of us leave the Cape for warmer climes for a couple of months each year. That is fine too! This is volunteer work without pressure.
My husband and I are call managers. We are part of a team of volunteers who answer the phones and record member requests. Using our software, we enter all necessary data so that our volunteers can sign up online for services that interest them. Yesterday I got a call from a gentleman asking for a ride. He gave me most of the information needed to post his request, but was unable to provide the doctor’s telephone number and address. I asked him if he could get that info and call me back. Meanwhile I was answering calls, recording information, speaking with members and volunteers. There was a break and I realized our elderly member had not called back. I found the address and telephone number of the doctor’s office and called the member. I told him not to worry, that I had found the information, and he in a dignified and warm manner thanked me for the help. He had been searching for the information as well. He ended the call with, “Next time I will provide everything. Thanks for your kindness.” I kept smiling as his words resonated in my mind and heart. Last week a member called and said she got a beautiful new phone from her children who live off-Cape. But she wasn’t sure how to use it. She wondered if any of us could help her make a call, send a message, take a photo. We had a good laugh about technology running away without us, and how we are losing our collective breaths trying to catch up. She was lovely and humble and grateful.
One of our volunteers called to say that she had taken a member to an appointment and the experience was amazing. They never stopped talking. She had just signed up for a second service request from the same member. She said, “We have so much to talk about, I was happy to see her name again.” Volunteers have been meeting in various towns for informal gatherings at local restaurants on a monthly basis. This is terrific fun! The opportunity to meet one another in informal settings and share our life stories is revitalizing and awesome. I met a volunteer who is a belly dancer, a volunteer who is a technology expert, a volunteer who held a position of influence at the National Seashore. Yesterday at a committee meeting, one participant, in saying goodbye, let me know that she would miss the next meeting because she would be on a shark tour. There is such variety of experience, of interest, of skills here.
This work takes my breath away. We work on behalf of approximately 220 members. We span, so far, towns including Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Brewster, Harwich, and now Chatham. We are happily offering services to members in each of these towns, ages 60 and up. We also are interested in organizing rides to shows, lectures, concerts, movies and library presentations. There is much to celebrate in Nauset Neighbors, especially the community of volunteers and members, working together to enhance the richness of our lives on Cape Cod while aging independently.
To Nauset Neighbors and learn more, call 508-514-7067, visit www.nausetneighbors.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.