The mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), “to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,” is fulfilled when the actions of our employees demonstrate our stated values. In doing so, they “make their mark” upon those we serve. In our continuing series, “Make Your Mark,” we introduce you to PHS employees (and volunteers) who are living out these values.
In today’s Make Your Mark spotlight, we share a story about Molly Perry, a volunteer with Optage Hospice, and her dog, a Golden Retriever named Rainy. Together they visit hospice patients and others twice weekly at Founders Ridge in Bloomington, MN. Since early Spring, when COVID safety protocols took effect, Molly and Rainy have overcome hurdles to assure residents of their continued presence.
Samantha Engelson, Life Enrichment Director, says, “Molly and Rainy have been coming to visit outside the Arbor windows since late March. We were joking the other week that when they first started visiting, they were wearing winter coats and boots and now they’re visiting in the heat and swatting away mosquitos.” She notes, “During a period of uncertainty, Molly and Rainy have been a constant,” adding, “Many of the residents refer to Rainy as ‘our dog’ and call Molly ‘family.’”
Family sticks together even through the hardest times, and that’s how Molly and Rainy have made their mark in 2020. Samantha Sleeman, PHS Volunteer Services Director, feels gratitude and says, “Volunteers, both human and our four-legged friends, who made the decision to do window visits during COVID visitor restrictions brought such joy to residents. I think that residents (and staff) being able to see familiar faces, even through the window, gave everyone a sense of hope and comfort knowing that everything would be okay.”
The exciting arrival of Molly and Rainy also washes away any worries and draws attention to life’s little joys. “Molly and her loyal companion Rainy spark memories about pets our residents had,” explains Peggy Kelley, Community Support Assistant. “Residents are impressed by how well-behaved Rainy is and how Rainy loves the bag of treats, every last morsel.”
Molly says, “The joy my dog brings to these people, and the joy they bring to my life, it’s just incredible.” That mutual joy fueled her desire to continue reaching out in any way she could, no matter the initial hesitation she felt. During her first window visits, she describes a creative, spur-of-the-moment process. “There was something I wanted to tell [the residents], so I got out my phone, opened the Notes app, typed up something and held it up to the window. The nurse grabbed her phone and typed three lines and held it up to the window. And so that was how we started communicating. Because we couldn’t hear each other, and I can’t read lips.”
From there she says, “I went and bought a whiteboard, markers and eraser. Two times a week I came with Rainy, dog treats and the board. I was able to write things down and hold it up to the window and they would give an answer. And now the nurse has her own whiteboard and markers and I bring mine.”
Molly reflects, “I kind of let go of [my worries]. It just happened. It works – it really does,” concluding, “Sometimes the presence of another human being and showing up through difficult times, there’s still a connection made, even if there’s glass in between you.”
We at PHS are touched by Molly, Rainy and all PHS volunteers who make their mark by showing up in creative ways when they’re needed most.
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, and we’ll be thrilled to hear from you!