Andrea R. has always enjoyed volunteering for various organizations. One of her favorite organizations is Meals on Wheels (MOW), a program where volunteers deliver meals to senior citizens in their communities. Not only do volunteers deliver meals, but they're a friendly face to seniors who can't often leave their homes.
Then the pandemic caused MOW to limit the face-to-face interaction between volunteers and seniors. In lieu of the conversations that took place while delivering meals, Meals on Wheels implemented a program where volunteers became “virtual visitors" and were assigned a senior to chat with on the phone every week.
“These are people who do not go out very much, or they are limited to their homes based on disabilities," explains Andrea, senior quantitative risk analyst. “Especially in the time of the coronavirus, they have no one to really visit with them."
Although she signed up for the program as a volunteer, Andrea says it feels less like volunteering and more like talking with an old friend.
“I call her once a week on Monday or Tuesday evenings, and it's a high point of my week because I myself have not been able to get out, and my conversations with people are limited too, especially during the height of COVID-19," explains Andrea. “She seems to appreciate me calling her."
Andrea says the volunteer assignment has turned into a genuine friendship.
“One day when she knew I was getting my vaccine, she called me out of the blue that evening to check on me," says Andrea. “It has become a two-way street."
Amid everything from the historic Texas snowstorm to signing up for vaccine, Andrea has been able to lend a hand to her new friend during these challenging times.
“She was having difficulties during the winter storm – she was short of water and I was able to make some calls and help her get food and water delivered," says Andrea. “She didn't know how to go online to request her COVID-19 vaccine, so I reached out to MOW, and it was arranged for her. I'm pleased I've been able to facilitate certain activities for her."
Andrea says she really enjoys being part of the MOW program, even virtually.
“It's about treating others the way you want to be treated," says Andrea. “I would like to think that if I were alone, there would be someone who could help me figure things out."
In addition to MOW, Andrea also fosters dogs through San Antonio Pets Alive! Most recently, she has gotten involved with the San Antonio Area Foundation to review scholarship applications.
“Volunteering allows me to step outside of myself – I try to help the next generation, the elderly and pets," says Andrea.
She says there is an opportunity for everyone to enjoy when it comes to giving back. A study by CPEP confirmed many findings over the last decade that demonstrate the mental, emotional and physical benefits of volunteering. From a small act of kindness to spending several weeks working on a pro bono project with a nonprofit organization, volunteering has value.
“I think there is something out there for every single person. We don't all have to be virtual volunteers, but you can find something – you might like animals or teaching," says Andrea. “My phone call through MOW takes only an hour per week. It's simple and I feel like I'm helping make society and the world a better place."