Patricia Danaher — Westchester Friendly Visitor
How long have you been a DOROT volunteer?
About six years.
How did you get involved with DOROT?
I had been volunteering at a nursing home for 14 years, also as a friendly visitor. Some needed company, others needed an arm to steady them for a walk. My last “friend” was quite challenging the entire ten and a half years we were together. When she was at peace, I realized that I wanted a different atmosphere and wanted to continue volunteering with the elderly. Then I saw a DOROT flyer at the Eastchester library. Perfect. I had not thought of the homebound elderly. Thankfully DOROT did.
What type of volunteer activities do you do at DOROT?
I am a Friendly Visitor and have delivered gift baskets with my boys.
In what ways has your DOROT volunteer experience impacted your life?
It is simply a part of my life. It feels like a calling or a vocation. I truly feel that is privilege to be accepted into people’s homes. Visiting the elderly forces you to slow down, leave your issues outside the door and simply be in the present moment. Something I was fortunate enough to enjoy with my Nana when she was well, and for two years when she suffered with ALS. The first meeting is kind of like a blind date, but after that it is just friends visiting. We have ups and downs like any relationship and the beautiful thing is we both learn from each other. It helps me understand my parents and elderly relations better as they age.
What motivates you to continue volunteering at DOROT?
This may be an idealistic view but it is one I feel very strongly about. I think all family members benefit from having an “outsider” involved. It’s a new person who can listen to those same stories again and again, not interrupt or make corrections and actually enjoy them. It is a new person who is not involved in the family dynamics so your “friend” can speak more freely. An “outsider” comes with fresh ideas, a different perspective, new topics for conversation. They want to hear about your version of the good old days, see your old photos and possibly learn to play bridge. Unfortunately we cannot all live close to our elderly relations, or may be too close for comfort. Either way, a “friendly visitor” helps take some pressure off of everyone.
As the “friendly visitor” I can soak up pearls of wisdom, enjoy stories no matter how distorted or exaggerated they may be and possibly bring out a side of someone they and their family didn’t know existed.
Most memorable volunteer moment
I looked at Mrs. Katz like I saw a ghost. Mrs. Katz and I had been to the nail salon, CVS and the bakery. As we got settled back into the car, she said “home James”, I never heard anyone say that except my Nana, who I loved dearly and always had a great time with even if we were simply running errands. I always thought that was Nana’s expression because my grandfather’s name was James. When I explained to Mrs. Katz why I was staring at her wide- ‐eyed, she said “oh we all used that expression back in the day, James was everyone’s imaginary chauffeur. “So it turns out that Mrs. Katz, a Russian/Jewish immigrant who grew up in Brooklyn, and my Nana an Irish/Catholic immigrant who settled in the Bronx had a lot in common. We all had a great laugh over that and it still comforts me.
What would you want other volunteers to know about volunteering at DOROT?
DOROT is very well organized. They work hard to find a good fit for volunteers as well as clients. Judy Goldstein, my social worker/contact is always available to help and guide me through any sticky situations. DOROT trains and supports their volunteers continually.
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