Doing Good and Doing Well: Volunteers are the Lifeblood of Nonprofit Organizations

It was five years ago that Mary Tate, Witherell’s Coordinator, Volunteer and Resident Services, decided that the corporate track was no longer for her. She wanted a change.

Pictured (l-r) Marie Micik, a longtime Witherell volunteer; and Mary Tate, Witherell’s Coordinator of Volunteer and Resident Services

Formerly employed in human resources by Walt Disney Co, Berkshire Hathaway and the United States Olympic Committee, Mary set her sights on the nonprofit sector. Shortly thereafter, in September 2017, this longtime Greenwich resident became part of the team at The Nathaniel Witherell as Volunteer Coordinator.

As she describes it: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. Absent of volunteers, many charitable nonprofits would not be able to conduct programs, raise funds, or serve their clients”.

She also said she noticed how nicely people treated each other. “It wasn’t the cutthroat environment driven by bonuses and profit that I had worked in. This was about kindness and selflessness; there’s a big difference.”

“Doing good” has been embedded in American culture going back to Benjamin Franklin. He believed that “one served not to save their soul, but to build a strong society.” Today, volunteering is an American value.  As Mary describes it, “Volunteers get to share a skill, know their community, demonstrate a commitment to a cause or belief, and gain leadership skills.”

Mary works closely with the Witherell’s volunteer corps, people of all ages and backgrounds.  They transport residents to/from the auditorium concerts and physical therapy; provide cultural enrichment; assist residents playing Bingo/cards; help in the Gift Shop and Hair Salon; assist at the Witherell’s Chapel services; provide plant care within the building; organize pet visits, and so much more.

This past summer, students at local high schools, did their community service at the Witherell. “And they were terrific!” Mary says. Three of them shared their insights:

(l-r) Volunteers Samantha Yap, Connor Crosby, and Jocelyn Zhingri

Jocelyn Zhingri, 17, a senior at Greenwich High School, found the experience very valuable.

“Initially, I was worried that the age difference might feel awkward,” she recalls, “but I found I really made connections with the residents and got to know them.” Jocelyn helped transport residents to physical therapy but also got the chance to play Rummy with them which led to many thoughtful conversations. “They would tell me about their grandkids, what they did, and what they liked. I found that when I walked into a room, their faces would light up.”

Samantha Yap, 17, and a senior at Stamford High School, said she wanted to be a volunteer at the Witherell because she’s interested in a nursing career and wanted to see what a long-term skilled nursing center was like.

“I wanted to be around older people, so I got to know the residents here and found the environment very different than a hospital,” she said. “In fact, it was much better. The people here are so appreciative, and the facility is so pretty!”

Connor Crosby, 17, and a junior at Brunswick School, said he had never been inside of a nursing home before, so he chose to do his first community service project at the Witherell.

“I had a wonderful grandmother so that influenced my decision to volunteer here, even though she did not spend any time in a nursing home.” He helped transport residents to various activities such as Bingo, and also helped with physical therapy. “I wanted to give back as much as I could to help others in the community. It felt good to know that I made the residents happy.”

At the Witherell, Mary Tate has expanded her role, planning and executing many activities: special events (internal), coordinating the Greenwich Library Bookmobile, managing the Witherell’s Angels’ Fund, providing database input, coordinating and distributing daily newspapers for the residents, and securing artists for monthly art shows. She also is the editor of The Witherell Times.

But it is working with volunteers that she particularly relishes: “Volunteering feels good,” she says. “I see it as these holy moments when you give to others and in return you receive a smile, appreciation, and knowing you made someone happy.”

If you would like to volunteer at the Nathaniel Witherell, please contact Mary Tate at mary.tate@witherell.org or call 203-618-4228

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