Submitted by Meg Dickens
April 17 through April 23 was National Volunteer Week. At the Johnson County Senior Center, volunteers are a vital part of what makes the facility function smoothly. In their honor, the center hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Day on Wednesday, April 20.
Approximately 70 volunteers showed up to enjoy this event. The center paid for this with reserve funds from the RSVP program. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) provided funding to help provide incentives to volunteers, but this program no longer exists. The center used the last of the funds left from its involvement to honor these volunteers.
Even though it was meant to be in their honor, volunteers could hardly help contributing. For example, Volunteer of the Year Dan Gill had to leave early to complete a ride with MyRide Johnson County. Volunteers had to be reminded several times not to help with activities such as covering the front desk and passing out the food catered by KFC for the event.
As part of the event, each volunteer in attendance received a special thank you card, a potted flower, a classic southern meal, and a chance to play bingo for special prizes. Attendees went around the room sharing stories of their times volunteering. Some had been volunteering since 1980, which adds up to 40 years of service. Everyone enjoyed hearing Sue Hensley’s story while delivering meals as she encounters unbelievable situations. She comments she should have written a book. Sue took her lunch break to deliver meals once a week while she was the Country Trustee.
Volunteer work is a great service to the community but also comes with benefits to the person. Studies show that volunteering can have a positive effect on mental and physical health. The social aspect is even said to reduce cognitive decline by 70 percent, according to a 2011 student published in the Journal of International Neuropsychology. Other studies showed a boost in self-confidence in 96 percent of those involved.
The center is always in need of volunteers. Programs are limited to the help available. For example, MyRide Johnson County is currently unable to take on new clients because it is in need of more drivers to keep up with demand. Anyone interested in volunteering for the center, MyRide, or Meals on Wheels can pick up an application at the center during business hours.