Volunteer Spotlight Series: Nancie Bourne

Nancie Bourne displays some of the holiday items for sale in the Witherell’s gift shop.

The Nathaniel Witherell’s longest tenured volunteer, Greenwich resident Nancie Bourne began helping out here 35 years ago. She’s donated her time to various activities, from sprucing up the grounds as a member of the local Green Fingers Garden Club to running the Auxiliary (which merged with the Friends of Nathaniel Witherell in 2007). For the past 25 years, Mrs. Bourne has managed Witherell’s gift shop, making sure that residents, rehab patients, staff, and visitors have a wide variety of tasteful and tasty merchandise to choose from.

When she first started volunteering at the gift shop, Mrs. Bourne didn’t have any background in retail. “I just threw myself into it,” she says. She quickly picked up the ropes and made herself invaluable, doing everything from staying on top of the inventory to making bank deposits.

“We couldn’t run the gift shop without her,” says Sally Van Leeuwen, Witherell’s volunteer coordinator. “She is extremely devoted and tirelessly dedicated, always volunteering over 100 hours each year.”

The hours add up when there’s so much to get done. Mrs. Bourne, age 79, can often be found shopping at CVS or Costco to restock toiletries and incidentals for the shop. She also makes online purchases and meets with vendors so that the shop’s shelves are lined with gifts. Just in time for the holiday shopping, she has filled the display cases with a wide array of necklaces, bracelets, pins, watches, and earrings.

According to Mrs. Bourne, “Cards and snacks are the most popular items here − residents and staff really do have a sweet tooth.” She also says the Bella Taylor bags and accessories are a big hit. In addition, residents and rehab patients snap up the toys, puzzles, and children’s books for gifts to their grandchildren. And if you need stamps, don’t worry; she’s got them in stock!

But even if your favorite item isn’t available in the gift shop, Mrs. Bourne is happy to help with special orders, from chocolate Nips to salted cashews. “People give me suggestions, and I always try to find what they want. I’m very open to any ideas,” she says.

As to what keeps her coming back and logging in those long hours, Mrs. Bourne says, “I enjoy the surroundings and the people, both residents and staff. I think of the Witherell as an extended family.” She adds, “I’ve been very happy here over the years, and it’s really a way of life for me. It’s my home away from home.”

Mrs. Bourne is among 300 volunteers who donate their time to the Witherell over the course of a year. “Volunteering here is part of a unique tradition of support from our community going back more than 50 years,” says Ms. Van Leeuwen. “Volunteers support the Witherell by doing a wide range of activities, from running chapel services and presenting music programs, to bringing their pets to visit, taking care of plants, and escorting residents to activities. They are an invaluable resource when it comes to enriching the lives of Witherell residents.”

For those interested in volunteering, there are myriad volunteer opportunities to suit any interest and schedule. To find out more about volunteer positions, click here or contact Ms. Van Leeuwen at 203-618-4228 or withvolunteers@optonline.net.

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