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The dedicated volunteers of PHS

Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) is blessed by thousands of volunteers who share their gifts. From Optage hospice volunteers, who give the gifts of time and companionship, to the visiting school groups who bring energy and joy, each volunteer is appreciated and vital to our mission to enrich the lives and touch the hearts of older adults.

As we wrap up National Volunteer Week, we’ve selected five stories (from among over 3,000 volunteers) that exemplify the many ways PHS volunteers serve.

Joanne Lott“We love Joanne a Lott!” Joanne Lott, Johanna Shores
“We love Joanne a Lott!” So say the residents and staff at Johanna Shores, located in Arden Hills, MN.  Joanne Lott has dedicated 12 years to volunteering at Johanna Shores, making the time to visit several times a week.

Joanne helps with activities, supports the spiritual care of the community and so much more; often spending entire days serving wherever she can. She formed and leads her own highly anticipated group activity affectionately called “Chats with Jo.” She develops meaningful relationships with residents and staff members bringing a measure of grace to the community. Recently she received a handmade wooden cross from resident Neal Rathjen as a token of his gratitude.

But that’s not her only reward. In 2017, Joanne won the Minnesota state volunteer award of excellence and later was selected for the national volunteer award of excellence from the National Association of Activity Professionals. Life Enrichment Director Kara Reiser said, “Joanne is always ready with a hug, a kind word and a listening ear for staff and residents alike. She deserves to be recognized and validated for making volunteering with seniors her life work!”

We couldn’t agree more.

A steadfast companion at the end stages of life: Frank Berdan, Optage Hospice
Frank Berdan was one the first volunteers with Optage® Hospice when it was established in 2010. Optage Hospice provides compassionate care that focuses on comfort, quality and support for individuals with life-limiting illness, their families and caregivers. Volunteers like Frank are a key component to the ministry, providing companionship, playing music, offering massage therapy, and more.

Frank regularly visits Optage hospice clients to comfort them through conversation and companionship. Frank learns each person’s interests and connects with them in meaningful ways. Though some may have lost the ability to speak, Frank says his reward is in the resident’s eyes; whether a twinkle of recognition or a smile. “I am honored to help families and individuals during a difficult time. The bonus is - I can volunteer at a campus near my home and in the summer I can bike to my visits!” said Frank.

Singing, praying and caring: Karen Lucht – The FarmsteadKaren Lucht
Karen Lucht volunteers at The Farmstead in Andover, MN, because she has witnessed firsthand the power of human connections. Karen’s mother Fran lives in the Arbor memory care and it was during their visits that Karen realized she wanted to volunteer. Now, each week, Karen leads a hymn sing, devotions and prayer. Karen says that for the time she gives, she receives so much more in return. “God uses us all, regardless of age, to bless others. I am so grateful to journey alongside them. The residents are why I volunteer and it’s my hope that my time on the campus brings a bit of joy, meaning, and above all, the love of Jesus to their hearts,” she said.

The “Jack of all trades”: Rob James, Founders Ridge
Rob James volunteers every single day at Founders Ridge, located in Bloomington, MN. He is known as the “Jack of all trades” because he does everything from assisting with concert setup to handyman repairs. Rob feels at home at Founders Ridge; his father lived there until his passing about a year ago. Rob relocated from New York to be with his father during his final months of life. The care and compassion he witnessed while visiting his father inspired him to become a volunteer. After his father’s passing, Rob remains eager to serve wherever he can. “I’ve felt called by God to serve others willingly and with an open heart” said Rob.

Branislav Nolin and DesaFrom Bosnia, with love: Branislav Nolin, Mill Pond
Branislav Nolin is a foreign exchange student from Bosnia who volunteers at Mill Pond in Ankeny, Iowa. When Branislav learned about Desa, a Bosnian native living at Mill Pond, he sought out an opportunity to meet her. Fluent in Bosnian, Branislav visits with Desa to share conversation in their native language over a cup of tea and to escort her to activities. Before Branislav began their visits, Desa, who is not fluent in English, was having a difficult time engaging with the staff and other residents at Mill Pond. Now, Branislav creates smiles in her eyes each time he visits!  Branislav said, "Knowing that every act changes the world, I proudly spend time with the residents.” All the way from Bosnia, Branislav has made a new friend in Desa and helps her gain a sense of belonging at the Mill Pond community.

Volunteer with us!
There’s no one size fits all volunteer activity; discover what inspires you! If you would like to explore volunteer opportunities at a community near you, send us an email, we’ll be thrilled to hear from you!

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