WMEC Volunteer, Alan Forcier, on his  motorcycle.

Changing a life is easier than you might think – just ask Alan Forcier.

When he retired ten years ago from his career in the computer industry, Alan knew he wanted to give back to his community. Volunteering just made sense. So he began volunteering with WestMass ElderCare as a Meals on Wheels Driver. Finding satisfaction in his giving back, he also started participating in, and later coordinating, the Brown Bag program at the Chicopee Moose Lodge.

What fuels Alan’s passion for working in food security? These programs meet a concrete need and deliver clear results, and people who receive these services are exceptionally grateful. Alan enjoys getting to know his consumers, mentioning one in particular, a 91-year-old retired nurse and “world-class quilter,” who has sewn face masks for him and his entire family.

Alan has seen great changes to the programs he supports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, watching the need for food increase and the number of volunteers decline. He realized that his volunteering is more important than ever: he’s helping keep consumers safe, fed, and healthy, through the pandemic, no matter what may come their way.

The best lesson we can teach from Alan’s story is that volunteering benefits everyone involved. No matter your prior skills or the program you choose, if you bring a desire to help, you can improve people’s lives. We gladly train and provide volunteers with the resources they need to get started. So don’t wait, learn more about our volunteer opportunities below:

 

Why Serve Older Adults in Western Mass?

Volunteering is often an enriching, rewarding experience, but can be especially so when working with older adults. WMEC consumers have as much to offer as our volunteers, often sharing stories, wisdom, and friendship with the volunteers that support them.

Older adults are a rapidly increasing demographic, which means there are more opportunities to support them. Additionally, with the variety of ways to volunteer at WMEC, there’s something that will fit into even the tightest schedule.

 

Volunteer Opportunities Tailored to You

Whether you’re passionate about fighting hunger, making sure others are heard, or helping protect elders against financial exploitation, WMEC has a volunteer opportunity that will inspire you to serve others. We’re always looking for more volunteers to make meaningful differences in the lives of our consumers. Check out our most active programs:

 

Fight Hunger: Meals on Wheels Drivers

Meals on Wheels Volunteer, Dr. Steve Levine

“I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of service, practicing family medicine for 39 years in this area. When COVID happened and all the area congregate dining sites for seniors closed, I was looking for something to do to be helpful and becoming a Meals on Wheels driver seemed like a logical thing to do. I deliver meals five days per week to two apartment buildings in Holyoke. I have enjoyed the people I’ve met in the process, both staff members and consumers.” -Dr. Steve Levine, Retired Family Physician

Looking to get out and about while volunteering? Home-Delivered Meal Drivers get to bring a warm hello and a nutritious meal to consumers in-need, meet many unique and lively individuals, and change up their day by traveling through their distribution area.

Drivers are needed generally between 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Monday through Friday, to deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound elders in Holyoke, Chicopee, Ludlow, Ware, South Hadley, and Granby. Two- or three-day schedules are possible for those who don’t wish to work every day.

All we ask of our drivers is to maintain excellent attendance, a valid driver’s license, a reliable vehicle, and a good driving record. Our nutrition staff packs the meals, set up the delivery routes, and provide all necessary support for our drivers to succeed in their tasks.

Contact: human-resources@wmeldercare.org

 

Speak for the Most Vulnerable: Ombudsman Program

Ombudsman Volunteer, Valerie Sawka

“During a difficult time in my life, I spent long days trying to advocate for the care and needs of a loved one in long-term care. It was a period of feeling frustrated, helpless, and even hopeless. I learned about the Ombudsman Program through a friend and contacted her soon after. She listened respectfully, taught us about Resident’s Rights, validated our concerns, and most importantly, she was resident focused….[There is an] incredible need for social connections and the powerful effect of being heard. It is truly satisfying and important work!” -Valerie Sawka, Retired Teacher

For caring individuals with more time to offer, you may want to consider our Long-term Care Ombudsman Program. Ombudsmen are impartial advocates who assist nursing and rest home residents weekly, making sure their concerns are heard and addressed. Your support ensures that these individuals have a voice and receives the care, concern, and solutions they need and deserve. Not only does this work increase our residents’ quality of life, it also allows them to live with dignity and respect.

Our Ombudsmen provide a variety of supports, including:

  • Developing trusting relationships with nursing home residents
  • Educating them about their rights and advocating for their quality of care
  • Investigating complaints on behalf of residents and their families, resolving any disputes which may arise
  • Connecting consumers and their families with long-term care and other community resources

Ombudsmen are asked to donate at least two hours per week visiting their assigned facilities, as well as to attend one monthly meeting for a minimum of one calendar year. We provide all of the training and certification through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elders Affairs Ombudsman Program which is required to participate in this incredibly rewarding volunteer program.

Not only do you get to meet and help wonderful people, you get to witness your help having a positive impact on them and their lives!

Contact: epires@wmeldercare.org

 

Help Older Adults Stay On Budget: Money Management Program

Money Management Volunteer, Pam Bronner

“Being a Money Manager volunteer over the past several years has been a very rewarding experience for me. For just a few hours each month, I am part of a program that makes such a difference to at-risk, low-income older adults in my community. While helping them to manage their finances, we are helping them to continue to live independently.” -Pam Bronner, Assistant Vice President, Easthampton Savings Bank

Whether you already work in the financial world or just like to stay organized, our Money Management Program (MMP) could be a great fit! MMP volunteers assist low-income elders and persons with disabilities in their homes with paying bills, writing checks, budgeting, and balancing checkbooks. By sorting bills and monitoring income and expenses, our volunteers help consumers feel secure in their finances, avoid scams, and remain in their preferred communities.

MMP volunteers serve under the supervision of our MMP Director, are trained and bonded through WMEC, work one-on-one with elders, and are only asked to work one to two hours a month. It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone who wants to help but has a limited schedule.

Contact: seaton@wmeldercare.org

 

How to Get Started

Volunteering is designed to help our consumers surpass challenges and hurdles, not be one in itself! That’s why we make it easy for first-time and seasoned volunteers to sign up for their desired program. To learn about our COVID safety protocols for volunteers or sign up for any of these opportunities, call us at 413.538.9020 or e-mail us any time at human-resources@wmeldercare.org.

 

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