Tipping the care scale from emotion to action positively impacts individuals, the community and society
Diane Natenstedt has become an invaluable friend to Bill Adams, who’s dealing with colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Sometimes she shares a cup of tea with him or makes sure he’s taken his meds.
Natenstedt is a volunteer hospice care worker with VistaCare Foundation, one of several organizations in Reno seeking volunteers. Agency workers say the need is great. A volunteer doesn’t need to be Mother Teresa, just a caring soul with a few hours to spare.
“We do it because we want to do it,” says Natenstedt. “We take the time just to spend time.”
Below are three groups that could use a hand, and there are many more. Investigate additional opportunities in the Truckee Meadows at www.volunteermatch.org.
A large, friendly black dog greets visitors at the gate of a small gray house on a tree-lined street, where Bill Adams resides. The old hound rises slowly but takes great pride in showing visitors the door.
“That’s Roscoe,” Adams, 62, says. “I saved him, and he saved me many times. Diane takes Roscoe to the vet for me.”
Natenstedt, 50, has been a hospice volunteer for a little over two years now, providing care for people with terminal illnesses.
“Nobody should have to face life changes alone,” Natenstedt says.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, Diane is a 10,” says Adams. “We share daily contact. She’s a very good companion, but she pushes me around.” His mischievous smile and twinkling blue eyes hint that she keeps him in check.
“From the beginning of my bout with cancer, Diane made sure I didn’t miss my appointments and that I took my pills,” he says. “She helped get my computer hooked up.”
Adams and Natenstedt share an easygoing friendship filled with playful banter. She listens to his “horrible jokes,” and he teases her about “blender fairies” that mysteriously replace broken blenders in his house.
Adams is a single father who opted not to marry, and his only son died in 2000. So he doesn’t have many people to help care for him. He’s been a hospice care patient since July 1.
“I’m called a cat,” Adams says with a smile. “But I’m working on nine [lives] now. The time you spend with someone, if it’s true, it’s worth putting everything you have into it.”
Hospice volunteers provide caregiver relief so patients aren’t left alone. They provide companionship for patients in facilities, and they help those without family assistance live their life.
“I would have died if not for hospice,” Adams says.
People often tell Natenstedt they could never volunteer in hospice—too much death. She says it’s not for everyone, but it is important.
“If I can help people drop the insignificant and enjoy the time they have, I get a sense of fulfillment to see them smile, knowing that I can help bring peace in this journey,” says Natenstedt.
“Leave yourself at the door, and be present with that person,” suggests Beth Skully, VistaCare volunteer coordinator. “Meet them where they are.”
Medicaid mandates that volunteers have one full 10-12 hour day for training, and every hospice care group is required to have volunteers. Volunteers coordinate their time directly with recipients of care. Contact VistaCare at 825-5008, or visit www.vistacare.com.
Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful
This group is a family friendly volunteer organization that uses every available helping hand to transform environmental concern into environmental action.
Christi Cakiroglu, executive director of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, says everyone benefits from the work: the community, environment, habitat, government agencies, businesses, tourism and the economy.
Volunteers who get out there and work benefit, too.
Gary Meckler, 55, is an office manager who has been a KTMB volunteer for a couple of years. He enjoys volunteering to help beautify the community so that people better appreciate where they live.
“I got tired of some of the things going on in my life,” Meckler explains. “I was always looking for something. I realized that I had a choice—spend two hours a week volunteering, or take in a movie.”
Meckler’s volunteering got him out more to take part in the community and make friends. He has found this experience mentally, physically and emotionally beneficial.
“Who wants to live with mattresses and chairs on the side of the road?” Meckler asks. “Take pride in where you live. It’s worth sacrificing a couple of hours to contribute. Come and have fun, enjoy yourself, and give back to your community.”
Cakiroglu says KTMB is looking for people with passion, commitment and dedication.
“But, we’ll help folks develop these qualities,” she says.
Improving the region’s appeal is only possible with volunteers, says Lynda Nelson, Regional Parks and Open Space representative.
About 359 volunteers collected 13 tons of garbage along the river and banks of the Truckee for a clean-up in September.
“As the area grows, illegal dumping and the need for clean-up grows,” Nelson says.
The group is looking for help in several programs: Adopt-A-Block, Adopt-A-Spot, Adopt-A-Park, neighborhood and open-space cleanups, as well as Christmas tree recycling. Sign up at www.ktmb.org, or call 851-5186.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
“CASA is not just a dispassionate collection of faces, but a role model for children.” Bill Murphy says. He’s a busy UNR professor specializing in cancer at the School of Medicine. He’s also the father of four children, and for the past four years, he’s taken the time to be a voice for abused and neglected children in the court system.
As a CASA volunteer, Murphy monitors a child’s situation, interviews everyone involved, reviews documents and compiles reports for the court. He also establishes a relationship with the child in order to defend the child’s best interests.
“Social services are overwhelmed,” Murphy says. “It does take a village. Children in the system have very little going for them. They are overwhelmed, and it is gratifying to help them.
“While presenting to a judge, there’s a look when you’ve cleared the fog between lawyers, so that an effective decision in the best interest of a child is made,” says Murphy.
Mary Herzik, CASA executive director, says the courts value what an advocate has to say.
“Judges treat CASA workers with great respect and judicial acceptance,” she says.
A minimum commitment of two years is essential for every volunteer because volunteers develop trust and provide a voice for children for the length of their journey through the court system."CASA is the most important thing an individual could do for our society, one child at a time,” Murphy says.
Sarah Marschall, a 29-year-old research associate who’s been with CASA for four years, explains that volunteers spend an average of 20 hours a month. But she doesn’t mind.
“Once you are involved, it doesn’t feel like a lot of time,” she says. “In a lot of cases, one person can make a difference by saying, ‘I believe in you.'”
Murphy says that adept CASA volunteers can prevent later problems in a child’s life. By taking care of issues early on, a community is investing in its most valuable resources—children.
“There is an analogy with cancer,” Murphy says. “It is much better to prevent cancer than treat cancer.”
If you are 21 years or older and would like to be a voice for children in the Washoe County Family Court System, contact CASA at 328-3298.