For the many who give of their time and resources to help others through Good Shepherd Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, a picnic Wednesday at Morgan's Grove Park gave back just a little. The annual event is hosted by the organization each year to simply say "thank you" to all those who, according to Board President Gary Tucker, are "the heart of the organization."
Tucker explained that the Caregivers has approximately 400 volunteers, some being more active than others. Only a small portion of those came out to join in Wednesday's event. Service Coordinator Nancy Marmorella said that she had hoped to see more of the volunteers able to attend; "but we sure have a quality group here."
The Caregivers provide assistance to individuals throughout the county with no age or income restrictions. Tucker shared that on average, the group assists more than 230 individuals per year in any manner of ways including driving, shopping, lawn care or just plain old company.
Stories shared during the lunch gathering spoke of individuals who are so grateful for the help provided by the Caregivers group. Marmorella shared a conversation she had with a care receiver who told her that the Christmas gifts she received through the "Be a Santa to a Senior" program were the only gifts she received.
"You don't know how important it is, what you do for people," Marmorella said.
Tucker said that the biggest need is volunteers. Paula Marrone-Reese, director of the organization, echoed those sentiments saying that drivers are in high demand. She explained that she calls volunteers in that arena "driving angels," because they are such a blessing to those receiving care. She explained that many of the recipients of care are dialysis patients who need rides to and from their treatments.
"But we need volunteers in all areas, really," Marrone-Reese said. "We need to cultivate action of caring about your neighbor. Anyone who hurts in the neighborhood affects the entire neighborhood," she said.
That falls back to the founding of the Caregivers organization in the early 1980s. Stan Jones, one of the founding members, was in attendance at Wednesday's lunch and shared that the group started just as an idea.
"We told the churches that we believed there was a need for some neighborly help for those who couldn't do for themselves," he said. "About 40 people came to that first meeting. He continued by saying, "A little bit of this neighborly help goes a long way to stopping the need for more help down the road."
Each attendee at the picnic received a small token of appreciation, a bag of candy, with a tag that read, "Good Shepherd Caregivers thanks you for the sweetness you bring to others."
Marrone-Reese said the need for volunteers is a constant one. Anyone wishing to volunteer in any capacity, no matter how large or small, should contact the Caregiver office at 304-876-3325. Tucker agreed that more people are needed. He said that approximately 500 individuals have inquired about receiving care in the future.
He shared that as a goal of his presidency, he hopes to get the word out even more on what the Caregivers organization is all about.
"We've been in business over 20 years and there are still people who don't know what we are," he said.
The group holds several fundraisers throughout the year to help fund the annual budget of approximately $160,000. Marrone-Reese acknowledged the Jefferson County Commission's contribution of $20,000 for the upcoming year as well as a Community Partnership Grant through John Unger's office and another significant private donation which helps give a boost to the budget process.
The groups hosts their Tastes from Around the World event in the upcoming weeks. A detailed article on the event can be found elsewhere in today's Chronicle.