According to a new study conducted by Edward Jones, in partnership with Age Wave, a majority of retirees say the COVID-19 pandemic has given them “more appreciation for what makes life meaningful” and “greater empathy and compassion for people who are struggling in ways that they are not.”
Empathy and compassion embody the spirit of retirees at Oak Crest, an Erickson Senior Living community in Parkville, Maryland, who are showing their appreciation for others by giving back this holiday season.
A vibrant volunteer program
“We are proud to say that we have 375 active volunteers at Oak Crest who demonstrate acts of service, not just at the holidays, but every single day,” says Volunteer Coordinator Erin Morris.
Retirees living at Oak Crest have plenty of volunteer opportunities to choose from whether it’s helping kids learn to read, making casseroles for Catholic Charities like Our Daily Bread, or knitting blankets for local hospitals.
“Many people who move to Oak Crest bring with them strong ties to the local community and to their neighbors,” states Morris. “The volunteer program at Oak Crest helps to foster those connections and ensure that those residents who still wish to dedicate their time to helping a neighbor or charitable organization are recognized and supported.”
Trudy Rogers is one of a dozen women at Oak Crest who make up the Magic Needles. The group knits and crochets items throughout the year to donate to local organizations, which are especially needed when the weather turns cold.
“We make blankets for Project Linus, hats for newborn babies at GBMC (Greater Baltimore Medical Center) in Towson, and lap robes and shawls for the veterans at Gilchrist,” says Rogers. “I find it rewarding to know that the hat that I’m knitting or the blanket I’m making is going to a good cause.”
The season of giving
During the holiday season, residents and staff decorate Christmas trees in the community with hats, scarves, mittens, and gloves which are then collected and donated to the Salvation Army. In addition to their efforts to keep people warm, Oak Crest residents also provide hot meals to the hungry through casserole donations to Our Daily Bread’s meal program, which serves more than a quarter of a million meals annually to the hungry in Baltimore City.
Two pounds of hot dogs, three pounds of beans, and a little brown sugar are three of the key ingredients in the easy-no-bake casserole. Volunteers simply purchase and mix the ingredients together in a pan provided by Our Daily Bread; cover with aluminum foil, and place in their freezer until collection day.
“On average Oak Crest residents and staff donate about 110 casseroles each month, says Dana Huntington-Smith, community resources manager at Oak Crest.
Lending a helping hand to those in need is something that Susan Klingensmith has enjoyed since moving to Oak Crest from Overlea nearly five years ago.
“One of the great things about living at Oak Crest is I don’t have to do things like cut my grass or wash my windows. Now when I want to volunteer, I have the time to do that,” says Klingensmith.
“The spirit of kindness”
As the volunteer chair of Oak Crest’s Concert Committee, Klingensmith is helping to raise money and supplies for the Helping Up Mission, a faith-based homeless shelter in Baltimore City for men and women fighting addiction, poverty, and homelessness.
“Before COVID, we would hold a peanut butter and jelly drive where volunteers would make hundreds of sandwiches,” says Klingensmith. “Now, because of the pandemic, we are encouraging residents to bring a jar of peanut butter or jelly or to make a donation as admission to one of our holiday concerts.”
Jeff Watson, Erickson Senior Living’s Director of Operations, says the impact of Oak Crest residents’ volunteerism is far-reaching.
“Even during this busy time of the year, residents are so generous with their time, talents and treasures, not only to do good in the world but to also feel good in the world,” states Watson. “It’s this spirit of kindness that always radiates throughout our campuses and enables those who call Oak Crest home to make a joyful difference in the lives of so many.”
To learn more about the sense of community and connection at Oak Crest, click to request a brochure.