The response was immediate and overwhelming. It began when restrictions were put in place to keep Meadowood safe during COVID-19.
Executive Assistant to Meadowood President and CEO Paul Nordeman, Susan Hughes was inundated with offers of assistance. “A lot of residents stopped me and asked if they could help,” she says. So, Susan put a volunteer list out and saw it quickly fill up. She appointed two lead resident volunteers, Tom Lynch and Janet Kovacs, to assign residents to the jobs that needed to be done.
Residents who raised their hands are now sitting at screening tables; delivering packages, newspapers and menus; and doing other miscellaneous tasks to free up employees for other responsibilities. “Residents are thrilled to do something to help,” says Tom. “In getting together, there’s a kind of conversation — from 8 feet apart. It’s a nice alternative to staying home and sitting on the couch.”
“It just evolved so quickly and responsibly from everything that the staff has thought we could help share in,” says Janet.
Now, nearly 100 resident volunteers are pitching in during the pandemic. “All of the residents are doing jobs that weren’t here before COVID-19,” Susan says.
Before beginning their jobs, residents had to undergo an orientation that was led by the Director of Nursing, the Director of Personal Care and the Staff Training Coordinator. “It was going over each position and all of the procedures they needed to follow to keep them safe,” she explains.
Some residents, like Tom and his wife, Ginny, man the screening tables for visitors who must enter the community. The procedure includes having visitors filling out screening forms, checking temperatures, hand sanitizing, putting on masks and more.
Then there are residents that deliver packages from families and stores. With the coronavirus, even a simple task like dropping off a parcel can get a lot more complex. “Delivery trucks are no longer allowed on campus,” shares Janet. “They all stop and drop off everything at a checkpoint, and then grounds people bring the packages to the auditorium. Wearing masks and gloves, we enter packages on a log-in sheet and wipe them off. Another group of residents delivers them to residences.”
For Heike Kilgore, a resident who volunteers with her partner Bill Davison, package delivery is fun — and doubles as a workout. “I like to go deliver packages and get my daily walk in. I try to take packages that go the farthest out in the community,” she says, “for extra exercise.” Bill enjoys his delivery duties, too. “Helping out is the natural thing to do,” he says.
Another role in volunteering is captain. “We appointed residents to be captains of their neighborhood. They call residents every other day to see if they need anything, and then they’ll inform us,” says Susan. Captains are also in charge of menu distribution and collection so that the dining team can make up the meals.
Volunteering is nothing new for many at Meadowood. “All the regular activities are run by volunteers here — now we are needed in a different way,” Heike explains.
It’s definitely different, especially since all volunteers must socially distance as they do their work. But, as one resident says, even though they’re not physically together, they’re all pulling together. “Usually, you walk in your neighborhood and know your immediate neighbors. Now, with the residents doing all the tasks they’re doing, more people know each other than ever have before,” says Janet. “You get to know the dogs, and you see the cats in the windows. There are very positive interactions with everybody.”
Other ways people are showing community spirit include sewing masks, sharing afternoon coffee breaks from their doorways and cheering on the staff from their balconies. “It’s out of this burst of real appreciation and hope,” Janet says.
“We’re one big family, so everybody’s pitching in,” adds Susan. “The volunteers are huge — we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
And volunteers are grateful to their community as well. “I think we’re very fortunate here,” says Heike. “Meadowood has been very proactive in keeping us safe and well-fed.”
“Meadowood is one, united against COVID-19,” says Susan.