According to a federal study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, more Americans are volunteering than at any other time in history. Last year, Americans volunteered nearly 6.9 billion hours, worth an estimated $167 billion in economic value.
Mirroring this national trend, community members at Windsor Run, an Erickson Living community in Matthews, N.C., spend thousands of hours volunteering both on campus and within the local community.
"I can't help but be amazed and proud of our volunteers," says Windsor Run Resident Services Manager Maria Reyes. "Their service not only represents a high level of engagement, it also adds significantly to the fabric of the Windsor Run community."
Charity begins at home
The abundance of clubs and activities at Windsor Run provide numerous opportunities for volunteerism. All of the clubs and activities are completely resident-run and exist solely thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers.
"Residents take the lead in organizing so many of our successful weekly activities," says Reyes. "Many also volunteer as part of our Good Neighbors Group, a volunteer directory made up of community members willing to be called to help a neighbor in need, running errands, caring for pets, watering plants, and welcoming new residents."
Community members also volunteer their time serving on the Resident Advisory Council (RAC), acting as a liaison between residents and Windsor Run management. Others serve on RAC committees, such as the dining services and activity committees, providing resident feedback to help management with planning.
Tech-savvy volunteers like Maureen Hlavacek chair of the resident-run technology group, volunteer their time helping their neighbors set up and use My Erickson, a free app providing in-the-moment access to community information, messages, dining menus, meal balance, activity calendars, transit schedules, local directories, and staff information.
"We also teach residents how to change settings, take photos and videos, and navigate popular apps such as Uber, for example," she says.
Other community members volunteer their time ensuring their neighbors are kept up to date and informed, sharing campus information as well as important local and national topics.
Harvey Cohen edits and designs Windsor Wisdom, which shares both fun and educational articles on life at the community. His neighbor Bob Mack leads the Windsor Senior Forum, also designed to inform and entertain residents. Completely resident-driven, the forum invites experts in a wide variety of fields to share their insight with the community.
"I continue to be amazed by the level of talent at our community," says Robert. "We have no trouble finding residents to share their knowledge or suggest a friend or contact who is willing to share."
And those who wish to pay it forward to future community members, serve as resident ambassadors, taking prospective residents to dinner and sharing their personal experiences at informational lunches.
Extending their reach
Windsor Run volunteers also share their time within the greater community. For many, this work is in addition to the time they spend volunteering at home.
Last fall, Windsor Run community members and staff raised over $5,500 in support of the Walk to End Alzheimer's. The fundraising began with a live piano and silent movie event featuring ragtime pianist Ethan Uslan. The following week, residents held a bake sale and culminated their efforts by participating as a team in the Walk to End Alzheimer's at BB&T Ballpark in downtown Charlotte.
"The entire community supported this important cause," says Reyes. "From selling tickets to baking sweet treats to walking three miles, or supporting those who did, Windsor Run more than tripled our monetary goal. That speaks volumes to the commitment and generosity of our residents."
In September, volunteers began the second year of Windsor Run's partnership with St. Gabriel Catholic School, an inspiring intergenerational program designed to bring together community members and fourth graders. After several get-togethers, both at the school and Windsor Run, the students interview their buddies, taking the answers back to their classrooms to write and illustrate a biography of their "grand-buddy."
"We are so grateful to our Windsor Run grand-buddies," says Monica Thysohn, a teacher at the school. "The partnership is very beneficial to our students, who develop special bonds with their grand-buddies as they interview them and learn about their lives. The best part is that many of these relationships continue beyond our field trips, with the grand-buddies coming to visit our school and some even arranging lunch dates over the summer."
Eye to the future
As Windsor Run prepares to celebrate its second anniversary, resident volunteers look forward to additional opportunities to serve.
"Not all of our resident volunteers serve in a visible way," says Reyes. "Many volunteers chose to remain anonymous. But each and every volunteer, by engaging their passions and serving their neighbors, is vital to the Windsor Run community."