We are holding a Volunteer Day on 1 November. We want to thank (profusely) our volunteers and ask them how we can make their experience with Neighbor to Neighbor even better. They work mostly in the background, connecting with care recipients and helping out in many different ways. I know them via email more than anything. I put out “help! ride needed” emails, and they respond. I am always so grateful when I can find a ride for one of the people we help. It’s a relief.
I would like to have faces to go with email addresses or phone numbers and to get to know the beating heart of this organization. I know there is a lot of wisdom and better ways of doing things to be shared, and I want to know about it all! Is there something I could be doing here in the office to make their lives easier? Do they like communicating primarily by email, or would they prefer phone calls? I find email to be much less invasive, but that’s just me. I want to honor the ways in which they prefer to be contacted.
I want to hear their stories about interacting with our care recipients. Some of the connections made and friendships forged are quite profound and deep. I love to hear about the mutual love and affection shared between volunteers and their care recipients. I would like to put more stories on the website about such connections. I believe they will resonate with anyone who reads them.
If you are a volunteer and can make it to our Volunteer Day on November 1st from 11:00-1:00, please let me know. Very few people who have RSVPed, and if we don’t have a critical mass, we will cancel it. Martha is going to a lot of trouble to have amazing, delicious food prepared, and I don’t want her slaving in the kitchen for nothing!
I met with a new care recipient today. She was really apologetic about asking us for help and kept apologizing. I reassured her that we exist in order to help people remain independent in their homes for as long as possible. I tried hard to reassure her that our amazing volunteers find their roles as helpers really positive. They like helping others. Many of our Neighbor to Neighbor volunteers help other organizations, too. When we did a survey, we found that our folks volunteer for an average of four places! That’s a deep commitment to community and to the well-being of others. I’m so impressed with our Northshire towns and how willing people are to help one another. It seems to be woven into the fabric of the people and places, and it is lovely to see, especially for a city girl like me.
For the care recipients, it takes courage to ask for help, to admit that they can’t do everything they once could do. Some of our care recipients were N2N volunteers and joke that they “put in their time” as volunteers knowing they would need help in the future. Losing the ability to drive is a difficult thing to concede. Calling and asking a stranger for assistance requires bravery and self-compassion. Many folks would rather be isolated and alone rather than take the hard step of (1) admitting they need help, and (2) actually asking for it. I am certain there are dozens of people in the Northshire who would benefit from Neighbor to Neighbor, but they just can’t take that first big leap.
Part of my desire as the program director is to get the word out about Neighbor to Neighbor, and thanks to recent newspaper articles (thank you Marian!), the word is getting out and people are finding their way to us. It’s important to note that we don’t accept referrals. The person who needs help must contact us directly. It’s not a good thing to show up at someone’s house or even to call them and say, “I’m from Neighbor to Neighbor and I heard you need help.” It’s a recipe for misunderstanding and wounded egos. It can cause a rift between the person who told us their mom or dad or aunt or neighbor would benefit from hooking up with Neighbor to Neighbor. If you know of someone who would benefit from our services, please give them our contact information and encourage them to give me a call. And then applaud them for the courage it takes to make that call.
I grew up with a mom who didn’t drive. Running down to the store for milk wasn’t an option. She did the grocery shopping on Saturdays when my dad would drop her off, go home and mow the lawn, and then come back for her. When I got my license at 16, I became her source of transportation. It was great. She could go shopping or to the bank–or wherever–whenever she needed to, and I had a ’69 Chevy Impala to drive!
Now I get into the car whenever I need to, and off I go. I don’t really think much about it. Hardware store? No problem. Drive to Brattleboro for dinner? OK. Many of our N2N care recipients, however, don’t have those options. They are housebound and rely on others to get them out and about. While Neighbor to Neighbor is not an organization dedicated solely to transportation, our volunteers do provide rides to our care recipients. They need to get to doctor’s appointments, to the grocery store and bank, and maybe most importantly, just need to GET OUT of the house.
If you have a few hours a week or a few hours a month, please consider becoming a Neighbor to Neighbor volunteer. You will fill out some paperwork and meet with me to talk about the specifics, and that’s it. You can drive CRs, or, if that’s not your thing, you can help in all manner of ways. Our care recipients are our elders, and they have so much to give. I guarantee that you will get at least as much as they do from your connection with them.
This time of year is when I start to get a lot of mail in my box. Some of it is the usual stuff: bills, advertisements, the local paper, a magazine or two…but many items are pleas for donations. Some institutions and organizations have a big budget to print all of the collateral and those cute little envelopes that are just big enough for a folded check.
Neighbor to Neighbor is not one of those organizations. We don’t have a line item in our small budget for that fancy stuff. Instead, our donors mail us checks with their own envelopes and stamps! It may sound smart alecky, but I’m quite serious. We depend on those checks and sweet, hand-written notes for our existence, and we are extremely grateful to our friends who provide financial support to Neighbor to Neighbor.
I’m sure there are organized people who keep track of what they give where. I can imagine an Excel spreadsheet on my computer, but imagining doesn’t make it so! Honestly, I can’t remember who I donate money to from year to year other than my son’s school. There are so many things to choose from, so many things I would like to support, but I just don’t have the means…so I choose.
During this season of giving, please consider making a donation to Neighbor to Neighbor. Unlike some large organizations, I can tell you with 100% confidence (since I am the one who deposits our donations) that the money you give goes DIRECTLY to helping the people we serve. We use the money for things like our monthly social event. The First Congregational Church of Manchester lovingly donates the space for our events, but we provide lunch for our care recipients. While every effort is made to make the most of our grocery dollars, things add up. For example, last month, we made sandwiches, and in order to make enough egg salad and tuna salad and ham and cheese, the fixings cost around $100.00.
I hope you will check back here regularly to read more about Neighbor to Neighbor and how we help the Northshire communities we serve. We’ve been here since 2004, and we plan to stick around for a good long time. Thank you.
We’re gearing up for our September social event. The tablecloths and napkins are sorted, the menu has been finalized, and the punch recipe is ready to go. Our social events are a bit of work, and there are logistics involved, but when our care recipients walk through the door of the First Congregational Church, light enters the room. Everyone smells the coffee brewing, old friends find one another, and new friendships are built.
Our care recipients choose to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible. Some of them are quite active and can drive themselves to appointments and to run errands. They play sports and go on daily walks. For others, however, they are alone…sometimes for days on end. Part of what N2N does is to honor their decision to stay in their home and to help them get out of the house when they want and need to.
Several years ago, we discovered that providing our individual services to our care recipients wasn’t enough, so monthly social events were added to the list of what our volunteers do. Typically, the events involve a luncheon and some form of entertainment. Last month, we watched “Anchors Aweigh,” and I smiled when I heard ladies sitting behind me comment on how young Frank Sinatra was. I could hear the delight in their voices. This month, a local barbershop quartet, The Dorset BBQers, are going to perform. There will be singing…and I’m guessing it won’t just be the quartet’s voices ringing out in the room.
I’m a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in a suburb of about 15,000 people. It felt like a small town to me: one fire station, one supermarket, a small shopping center, a few gas stations and banks…all of the usual stuff.
It felt like a small town…until I moved to Manchester a year ago. While I don’t miss the traffic and general craziness of the Bay Area, and I marvel daily at the beauty of the mountains and the green, it’s a little isolating. I had an entire tribe of friends and family, people who I knew–even if I didn’t see them often– I could rely upon if there was an emergency.
Imagine living alone in a house on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. You may have mobility or other health issues, you no longer drive, and your nearest neighbor is a phone call–not a shout–away. That’s how many of the elderly in the Northshire live. When they call the office, I sometimes feel as though I might be the only person they talk with that day.
One thing I know for certain: people in Northshire communities love to take care of each other. Our amazing group of volunteers provide services and plain old companionship to their care recipients, things that cannot be easily measured. To know they are on someone’s mind makes care recipients feel appreciated and cared for. While driving someone to a doctor’s appointment or bringing them a bouquet of flowers cut from your yard doesn’t seem like much, such gestures mean a great deal to the folks on the receiving end. Small acts of kindness go a long way to make a person feel as though they are an important part of the community in which they live.
That’s what we try to do at Neighbor to Neighbor.