Cheryl received the Outstanding Volunteer Service Award for the AmeriCorps category at the 2021 Spirit of NH Awards for her service with the NH Senior Companion Program. Last year, nearly 2,000 individuals age 55 and older served across the three AmeriCorps Seniors programs in New Hampshire. 64 of those, including Cheryl, served in the Senior Companion Program – which is a volunteer program providing friendly visitation and respite services to homebound adults.
Since September 2018, Cheryl has provided vital transportation services, resource referrals, companionship, and enrichment to seniors in the Greater Manchester area. Her work has helped many to remain independent in their homes as they age, and has provided support for families and caregivers. Not deterred in any way by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheryl found ways to be a lifeline to her seniors and to see them through a period of intense social isolation. The way in which she so deeply connects with her clientele on an individual level is an inspiration to her peers.
In honor of AmeriCorps Week, we followed up with Cheryl. Watch her 2021 awardee video below, and scroll to read more about her.
How has volunteering factored into your life up to this point?
After I had to stop working due to injuries from a bad fall, I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. Volunteering has given me a purpose in my life that I needed. I enjoy helping people and making a small difference in their lives.
How has your perception of the value of volunteering evolved over the years?
Before volunteering, I didn’t know how important 3 hours a week could be to someone, and also myself. I look forward to spending time each week with all of my ladies.
What’s the most important trait a volunteer doing what you do should have?
I think that you need to be patient, understanding, and caring.
What would you most like people to understand about your AmeriCorps experience?
The friendships that I have made have changed me as a person. I’m better because I am volunteering. This whole experience has added so much to my life!
Do you have any favorite volunteering stories that you are willing to share with us?
I used to spend my Tuesday afternoons taking a 92-year-old blind client to see her husband. He was in a local nursing home and I brought her to see him weekly. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2020. He had dementia. I feel blessed that I was able to spend this time with both of them. They were married for a little more than 66 years. They were still very much in love.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?
I took a visitee to the nursing home to visit her husband. During a time when my visitee was in a nursing home rehabbing after a fall, I would visit her there. She wanted to spend her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband at the nursing home where he lived. The nursing home where she was arranged transport for her. She let me know when she would be visiting him. They were both diabetic & her husband had dementia. Before I met her, I bought a small sugar-free cake, plates, and forks. I brought these things and my camera to the nursing home with me. I celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with them. I took lots of photos & videos, even some with her feeding him some cake.
They were so cute! I loved spending this time with them! After I got home, I edited the photos. Then I put the best photos & videos on a flash drive. The next time that I saw my visitee, I gave her the flash drive. She was able to copy all the photos & videos onto her computer, and her daughter and granddaughter also copied them to their computer. Her & her family loved the photos & videos. Unfortunately, her spouse passed away 2020. His wife was able to recover from the fall & return home with her daughter and family. Then she wasn’t able to stay home and went into a nursing home. She passed away in 2021. I was able to spend time with her a few days before she died. I know that her daughter & grandchildren are thankful that they have the photos & videos that I took.
I’m so thankful to have spent that time with both of them. I miss them both.
Find more information on the NH Senior Companion program and eligibility to participate, click here: https://www.capbm.org/senior-companion