by Laura Goehrs
In 2004 my parents died and I was not sure where or what I wanted to do that would help me heal. One Sunday, the weekly information bulletin at church spoke of a program for a geriatric population called “The Gathering”. I went for an observation day. I was hooked and could not wait to meet with this group of people the next month. My healing began as I came to realize that I could help another person feel loved. The Holy Spirit guided my steps. That was 17 years ago.
After my first visit, I learned the Gathering was a group free to families held at our church once per month that provided respite and care for people who had memory loss. Our clients came from CarePartners, a nonprofit, volunteer-led organization that provides support, education, and resources for caregivers and quality care for those living with memory loss and other challenges of aging. CarePartners interview and put together information on our clients prior to them coming to us. When I became involved, I truly enjoyed visiting with people who needed to feel they were special and to know someone cared. I learned that I can be myself and laugh and smile and show someone kindness. At The Gathering, we share stories, sing, play games, practice crafts, pray, exercise, eat a meal together, and enjoy entertainment. We offer a safe and consistent place for families to trust us with their loved ones at our church.
"I could tell by the smile on his face that he had a good time and that he felt special when he came home.”
I spoke to a wife of one of our clients who said “I could tell by the smile on his face that he had a good time and that he felt special when he came home”. Another stated “I can tell by the effort that you all (our volunteers) place in the care of my family that you enjoy what you do.” As a volunteer, we receive more in return with the smiles on the faces of people and families. If we were not here for the care partners, they may otherwise be sitting in front of a television. What we do is transformational.
I started as a volunteer which turned into my running the group at St John the Divine. This fall, The Gathering will begin meeting in person at our church again for the first time since the pandemic began last year. I am looking for volunteers to help set up, check care-partners in, provide communication, upload pictures, prepare crafts, help with food/plating/menu, entertainment, singing, clean-up, and just plain having a good time. You can choose your volunteer role, and there are flexible hours as needed. I invite you to join us and see where God leads you.