Opinion: Dear Susi Q

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Celebrating Our Volunteers

By Lynette Brasfield 

When I considered retiring, I researched potential volunteering opportunities. I’m not good with children, feared that I’d want to take all the dogs and cats home with me if I worked at an animal shelter, and didn’t feel strong enough to help at hospitals or hospices after going through the slow death of a very close friend from ovarian cancer.

Eventually, I settled on becoming a volunteer hiking trail guide and helping at the Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, where all the fifty or so senior cats are supremely happy permanent residents.

Yes, I took the easy way out, doing only the tasks I loved, not, in my view, putting myself out at all. So I’ve always felt in awe of Susi Q’s Lifelong Laguna volunteers, who take on a myriad of responsibilities helping out some of the more vulnerable seniors in our midst. Volunteering in that way must be hard. I thought—such a major commitment of time and energy to help people age in place in their homes—such an emotional and difficult endeavor.

Then I interviewed a few of the volunteers, and I was blown away by the sheer joy they expressed about the time they spent with Lifelong Laguna members. Turns out they absolutely love volunteering and find it a privilege and a blessing, don’t find the commitment arduous in the least.

They love the connections that they make with the people they help. They spoke of learning new things themselves as a result of their conversations, from model train building to classical music to World War II planes, and raved about the great friendships they’ve made.

Volunteer Hymie Pikoos, who is 81, told me: “There’s an old Jewish saying, ‘You have to give to get,’ and I’ve found that’s so true with volunteering. Doing good deeds, that’s what makes me tick right now, keeps me busy and gives me joy.”

Among many other activities, Lifelong Laguna volunteers walk with members, play board games, shop, ferry them to the Susi Q for programs, medical appointments, the library, and art classes, deliver groceries, and pick up meds—but the best of all is the companionship they offer.

Long-time volunteer Debbie Naude said: “When we visit, we’re not just checking off a box, the way a home health care nurse might. We have conversations with them about their lives and their interests. Because of those conversations, I’ve been introduced to new books, movies, and great places to travel. Volunteering has been a gift to me. 

“I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met. I love to hear about their lives and travels and look at photos from when they were young. The connection works both ways, they have made my life so much richer, broadened my horizons.”

Nancy Glenn is another dedicated volunteer. “Susi Q is such a wonderful resource. We’re such a unique small town and Lifelong Laguna fits right in. I love the new focus on End-of-Life issues that Rickie Redman has introduced. We all have to deal with loss. As volunteers we will face that with the people we’ve become so close to. That can be hard. But I’m still so grateful for the friendships I’ve developed.”

Susi Q volunteers are special. And so are the people they connect with. Lifelong Laguna members run the gamut from rich to poor, vulnerable to simply lonely, to those who’d like advice about modifications to make their homes safer.

We’re a community. We’re all connected. And Susi Q, offering many programs and events that aren’t restricted only to people over the age of 55, is increasingly the glue that binds our generations together in Laguna Beach.

If you’d like to volunteer, or become a Lifelong Laguna member, visit www.thesusiq.org, call Rickie Redman at (949) 715-8107 or email [email protected].

 

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