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Gaining grace and life lessons from volunteering
By Briget Pottkotter
Edison State Communications student

Volunteering at the Alzheimer’s benefit and Brethren’s nursing home impacted my life more than I thought it would. I learned many unspoken values when I was just sitting and talking to the elderly in the nursing home. An example is how one small, simple gesture can impact one’s whole day. When I painted some of the patients’ nails, their smiles were huge; and I could tell I truly made their day. Helping at the benefit, I learned to be kind to everyone because you never know what is happening in their lives. For example, this man and woman looked like they were having such a fun time and acted like nothing was wrong, but they eventually came up and talked to me. It turns out that his mom had just passed from Alzheimer’s disease. Her passing really impacted his life hard, but I would never have guessed that if he didn’t come and talk to me. The biggest thing that I gained from volunteering at both events was to never, ever take time with your family for granted. There were multiple couples that were at the benefit that have a parent who didn’t even remember them, because they have Alzheimer’s disease. This really made me to think about appreciating my family more, because you never know what will happen to them. Gaining these experiences were one of the many positive outcomes.

Another positive thing about volunteering at the Alzheimer’s benefit and nursing home was getting to talk and know more people and their stories. The elderly all had their own good stories to tell. It was awesome to see their faces light up when they talked about their spouse “back in the day.” Volunteering also made me feel good inside. Every time one of the patients in the nursing home smiled at me, it truly made me feel good inside. Or every time that someone thanked me at the benefit for helping, it also made me feel good inside. This relates to how a tiny gesture can go a long way.

Even though there were numerous benefits and positive effects that came from contributing my time, there were two negative things that came from it. The first negative thing was seeing the patients in the nursing home that had Alzheimer’s disease. It made me think back to when my grandma had it and eventually passed away from it. It is a horrible disease, and to see so many people suffer from it broke my heart. Even though some of them won’t remember the wonderful days I had spent with them, the positive outweighs the negative. Along with the patients in the nursing home that suffers were their families. Many families at the benefit were families who had to suffer seeing their loved ones be slowly taken by this disease. My heart goes out to all those who suffer, suffered, or who have/had loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Even though I did not make a huge impact on the communities or a huge amount of people, I know I made the elderly’s day by just the way they looked and talked to me. They were so grateful for the time I spent with them. All the people that came up to my table at the benefit were thankful that we put on a benefit to help raise money to find a cure. These experiences are ones that I will keep with me. I am glad to be able to volunteer at the benefit next year and also being able to visit the nursing home again. 

My visits and contributions related to the core values. It relates to communication the most. I had to communicate to everyone at the benefit who came up to my area. I also spent most of my volunteering hours talking to the patients at Brethren’s. Listening is part of communication and became very important when they talked. I listened to all their stories, jokes, and comments. My volunteering also relates to ethics. My decisions and behavior while helping were ethical. Another core value is teamwork. At the benefit, everyone that helped had to contribution to our “team” for the benefit to go just right. Everyone did their part, and it was a major success.

Overall, volunteering at the Alzheimer’s benefit and Brethren’s nursing home is something I would highly recommend to anyone. You can gain so many life lessons and grace from just contributing a little bit of time. Not only did volunteering my time benefit the people around me, but myself as well.

Editor’s Note: Edison State Darke County Communications students had to volunteer 26 hours during the semester, preferably at the Empowering After School Program. If a student’s schedule or distance from campus made that impossible, they were allowed to work in a comparable program under licensed supervision. The purpose was to teach the student how the fundamentals of communication impacted their own lives and the lives of those around them.

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