Welcome to Caring Community Updates where Volunteer Solutions shares the latest news and articles about our volunteers in action!
Lending a Helping Hand
(Posted 2021 July)
This year, Volunteer Solutions' Helping Hands program focused on outdoor spaces. Dedicated volunteers worked hard to clean up and transform older adults' yards. From trimming bushes to pulling vines, volunteers added curb appeal and improved the quality of life for residents who can now more easily access and enjoy their space. To all of our Helping Hands volunteers, thank you! Learn more about this story.
Young Men Continue to Serve During Pandemic
(Posted 2021 June)
The Young Men's Service League Vienna-Oakton chapter (YMSL-VO) provides mothers and sons valuable, philanthropic opportunities to bond and serve together during their high school years. When the pandemic hit, YMSL got busy creating multiple ways to continue to offer their volunteer services while social distancing. Learn about ways some mothers and sons continue volunteering to help the community.
Recognition of National Volunteer Week
(Posted 2021 April)
In recognition of National Volunteer Week, Trina Mayhan-Webb, Division Director of Adult and Aging Services in the Department of Family Services, shares a special thank you message to our volunteers.
Chairman McKay’s Community Champion Award Winner – Diane Watson
(Posted 2021 April)
Congratulations to Diane Watson, an activist, advocate, educator, facilitator, and collaborator with and for her neighbors and all older adults throughout the whole Fairfax region! She was chosen to be Community Champion for Jeffrey McKay, Chairman At Large, for the 2021 Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards. She is a community pillar of knowledge, dedication, hospitality, service, and compassion for all, but especially, the most vulnerable community members. Learn more about Diane's story.
Making a Difference One Call at a Time
(Posted 2021 April)
Navigating Medicare can be complicated and many people don't understand their options. By providing unbiased, factual information to Medicare recipients via phone, Michael Quigley knows he has saved people money and helped them receive medications at the best rates available. He finds great satisfaction in making such an impact on people’s lives. Learn more about Michael's story.
Striving to Thrive, Not Just Survive
(Posted 2021 April)
Shobha Sahgal is no stranger to Volunteer Solutions as she registered with us shortly after retiring more than 20 years ago. As you can imagine, she’s done a variety of tasks through the years: helping with grocery shopping, running errands, transporting people to medical appointments, and interacting with older adults through social visiting. Little did Shobha know how that would later expand her volunteering repertoire in the virtual arena. Learn more about Shobha's story.
Volunteer Spotlight – Meet Daphne Yang
(Posted 2021 February)
In 2018, Daphne joined Volunteer Solutions – volunteering time to drive older adults to doctors’ appointments, help with grocery shopping, and make social visits. But now, even though the pandemic has changed things, it hasn't kept her from finding ways to help others. Learn more about how Daphne adjusted and continues to volunteer.
Do You Want to Make a CERTain Difference?
(Posted 2021 February)
Helpers can be anyone—Volunteer Solutions volunteers, your next-door neighbor, first responders, or volunteers like retired Fairfax Area Agency on Aging employee, Kathy Jones. Throughout her life, she has cared for others in many ways. To those who know her, it came as no surprise when she decided to learn life-saving techniques from the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. According to Kathy, it should no longer be the best kept secret in Fairfax. Learn more about Kathy's story.
Caring Cards Lift Spirits
(Posted 2020 December)
Many centuries ago, Aesop once declared something that still holds true today, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” During this highly tumultuous time that has tested everyone around the globe, there are people of all ages who have demonstrated how to live by this motto. Here, in Northern Virginia, it’s been heartening to see that many have found safe ways to make a difference in their communities.
Due to the pandemic, Fairfax County senior centers began offering activities virtually instead of in-person. In an effort to remind older adults that others were thinking of them and to reduce social isolation, Volunteer Solutions created a program called “Caring Cards.” Volunteer Solutions volunteers: Carol Dexter, Eleanor Dyment, Abby Lekezime, Marion Glass and Deb Richlen have been busy creating and writing cards for older adult participants at the Lewinsville senior center. These compassionate ladies have written nearly 200 cards between them, so far! Learn more about this story.
Meet Ruhi Ahmed, Virtual Social Visitor Volunteer
(Posted 2020 November)
During this challenging time, it’s heartening to know that volunteers like Ruhi are forming meaningful connections.
In May 2020, when Ruhi learned that Volunteer Solutions created a virtual social visitor role, she jumped at the chance to help reduce social isolation.
Learn about Ruhi’s story and her special bond with a retired microbiologist in this Golden Gazette article: A Remarkable Coincidence and An Uplifting Connection.
Helping Hands Was Recognized With a Special Award
(Posted 2020 September)
The Volunteer Solutions' Helping Hands Program, in the Fairfax County Department of Family Services, received a Best Practices award from the Commonwealth Council on Aging, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, and Dominion Energy!
On Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, Volunteer Solutions accepted the award at the Council's 2020 Best Practices virtual, awards ceremony. The Best Practices Awards serve to encourage organizations across the Commonwealth to develop and support programs and services that assist older adults to age in their community.
In the last six years, 757 Helping Hands volunteers have helped 112 older adults and adults with disabilities remain safely in their homes by decluttering, organizing, and performing intensive yard work.
A big "thank you" to the volunteers and partners who have generously given their time and resources to help our community members! This award would not be possible without all of you. Learn more about the Council or the Best Practices Awards.
Thank You to Long-Serving Volunteers
Volunteer Solutions is deeply grateful to the following volunteers who devoted decades of their lives to serving Fairfax County older adults and adults with disabilities, and to the many others who do so as well! Your dedication to making a difference in your community is very much appreciated by those whom you help and by the Department of Family Services.
Falls Church Meals on Wheels Drivers:
Betty Deck – 30+ years
Diana Sears – 25 years
Pat Turner – 24 years
Robert "Bob" Huley – 16 years
Cathy Eckbreth – 23 years
If you (or another VS volunteer) will be retiring after 15+ years, please send an email to Tanya Erway.
Meet Chris and Jeanne Mussig, Volunteer Fairfax Award Winners!
Kudos to Chris and Jeanne Mussig for their volunteer work helping people who face food insecurity, and transportation and educational challenges! They were recently honored with a well-deserved service award in the “family” category by Volunteer Fairfax, a program that mobilizes people and resources to meet regional community needs.
Here's a quick account of what this remarkable couple does, through RSVP-Northern Virginia, to create a better community for all of us. RSVP-Northern Virginia is the region's largest volunteer program for people age 55 and better. Learn more about Chris and Jeanne.
Virtual Social Visitors – Compassion and Conversations
One of the pandemic's most significant challenges has been dealing with the social isolation that can result from physical distancing. This is why Volunteer Solutions developed the Virtual Social Visitors program. Program volunteers call clients of the county's Adult and Aging Services and residents of long-term care facilities to say "hello" and check on their well-being.
Many dedicated volunteers stepped up to do this and we reached out to learn about their experiences. Here is what two veteran Volunteer Solutions volunteers, Susan and David, had to say.
Susan Mangin, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, has been calling a 94-year-old man who lives in an assisted living facility. She says that even though he now must eat all his meals in his room, he doesn't complain. They talk about his previous career, his past, their shared interests, dogs and more. She lets him lead the conversations and she sometimes reads him poems.
Susan shared, "I feel better after I talk with him. He's so positive."
David Ballard is a retired U.S. Department of State foreign service officer, who still works on special projects from time to time. Currently, he is enjoying connecting with a man in his 60s who lives at home. He says they have "great conversations" about sports, cars, music, family, and more.
David realized that he takes for granted how much technology plays a role in everyday conversations. His new friend does not use the internet and David explains that he has to avoid suggesting things like Googling something.
Summarizing his experience, David said, "The not-so-secret truth of any volunteer work is that the volunteer gets more out of it than the person they're trying to help."
Thank you to all of our virtual social visitors who are making a lasting impact, one phone call at a time.
To Be Frank
When you meet Frank Lee, a Volunteer Solutions Star Award recipient, you can't help noticing his warm smile and outgoing personality. The people he helps, notice this, too! As a Volunteer Solutions volunteer for the past eight years, Frank has driven people to medical appointments, delivered Meals on Wheels and brought people grocery shopping.
Frank was inspired to do volunteer work from an early age by both of his parents, who taught their five sons and one daughter to always remember to "give back." Learn more about Frank.
Recognizing Our Volunteers
National Volunteer Week was April 19-25, 2020. Every April, one week is set aside nationwide to officially say "thank you" to volunteers. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we could not celebrate together at our recognition luncheon. We hope all our volunteers can sense the depth of our gratitude, virtually. The Volunteer Solutions team created a video to say "thank you," which is found on our Facebook page. (You do not need a Facebook account in order to see it.)
Meet Our 2020 Star Award Winners
Region 1 (Alexandria) – Wayne and Linda Leong
"Linda and Wayne are a very positive couple, and truly enjoy serving the less fortunate! Whether delivering meals in stifling heat and humidity, bone‑chilling cold, or windblown rain, our conversation after their route is done is always uplifting.
There's never a negative vibe from them regardless of what they just endured. They're more focused on the good being accomplished and not the direct impact on them." – Carter Barrett, volunteer driver coordinator, Mount Vernon Meals on Wheels
Region 2 (Annandale, Falls Church) – Mary Lee Di Spirito
Mary Lee co-founded the Annandale Meals on Wheels (MOW) program for Fairfax County in 1982 and has served continuously in multiple capacities since then! In collaboration with Volunteer Solutions, she recruits, trains, and supports volunteers who deliver meals for the Bailey's Crossroads MOW route. She performs at least three roles (driver coordinator, group coordinator, and meal deliverer). She is fiercely dedicated to our county's older adults and particularly those on the Bailey's MOW route.
Mary Lee's direct impact is incalculable. She has been pivotal in ensuring that hundreds (likely thousands) of people have received meals in the past 4 decades! She's pictured here educating and recruiting potential volunteers at our Venture into Volunteering fair.
Region 3 (Reston/Herndon) – Susan Harpe
Susan, a long-serving, passionate Meals on Wheels (MOW) driver. She is committed, reliable, consistent, and makes a positive impact on the people she meets.
She has demonstrated that she adapts easily to change and has seen various changes over the 12 years she's been with MOW. It brings her joy to connect with others and to help isolated people.
Region 4 (Fairfax) – John Peterson
John, a long-serving driver coordinator and driver for the Fairfax Meals on Wheels (MOW) routes. "John is always willing to do what is needed and is my go-to person for anything related to the program. He includes humor in the driving schedules, which is also greatly appreciated. I couldn't do what I do without him." – Melynda Waldenga, Nutrition unit social worker
More high praise: "John is a model volunteer and we're fortunate to have him on board the Fairfax MOW leadership team." – Beth Ann Margetta, Nutrition unit supervisor.
Star Partner Award
St. John Neumann Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – Great Falls Ward
This year, Volunteer Solutions selected two groups, who joined together as one to serve our population. In 2018, St. John Neumann Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – Great Falls Ward, partnered with each other and created an annual Interfaith Day of Service. The two congregations collected donated supplies and financial support for emergency care kits: first aid kits, radios, flashlights, water, whistles, blankets and more. Then, 62 volunteers assembled 250 emergency preparedness kits. In 2019, 80 volunteers (across the age spectrum) put together 600 care packages, drawstring bags filled with life's essentials in them and fun items too. These groups help the homeless community as well and St. John Neumann is a meal drop-off site for our Meals on Wheels program.
Volunteer Solutions is thankful for all the kindness our volunteers bestow on others! Please make sure to bestow it on yourselves as well, especially during this trying time.
Resilience During a Challenging Time
There's nothing quite like a global pandemic to showcase the resilience and kindness with which we are surrounded! It has been heartwarming and moving to see how our Volunteer Solutions intake phone line and email box have been deluged with offers of help. We experienced a nearly 800% increase in those looking to volunteer and support their community! It's important to hold onto these comforting examples of "light" during a time of uncertainty.
Our active volunteers have also demonstrated their ability to be flexible and adapt to ever-evolving change. Nearly every day in the past several weeks has brought change, as new COVID-19 information is received nationally and locally. County agencies are partnering and working together and coming up with solutions via video conferences. Learning new technology has provided some opportunities to connect in new ways with volunteers.
Here are some uplifting highlights:
Cox Charities Virginia surprised the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging with a very generous donation of $10,000! This will help toward home-delivered meals, personal hygiene and emergency kits, payments to prevent evictions, or provide minor home modifications to assist people to "age in place." Thank you very much, Cox, for showing your #CoronaKindness to Fairfax County Volunteer Solutions and the people we serve! Here is the video call, which we hope will make you smile. Once you select the link, scroll down a little bit to see the video.
Due to social distancing guidelines, Volunteer Solutions created a Virtual Social Visitor (VSV) opportunity to keep those who are socially isolated, engaged. Many volunteers, who are not able to continue in their current role at this time, have stepped up to provide virtual visits to Adult and Aging clients, as well as residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Meals on Wheels volunteer leaders have been hard at work behind-the-scenes continuing their amazing efforts to keep the over 50 routes up and running during this time!
When we look back on this COVID-19 time, let's remember that people showed the best of themselves too. One of the many "silver linings" is that no one is really a stranger, and we are all responsible for each other's well-being. We might be physically apart, but it hasn't stopped people from being more connected than ever.
Volunteer Solutions is deeply grateful to all the wonderful people who have "stepped up" and continue to "step up" to improve the lives of older adults and adults with disabilities!