For more than a year, Elaine Schmidt has been traveling twice a week from her home at an Arc of Rockland residence in Pearl River to work as a volunteer at the Joe Raso Hospice Residence (a program of United Hospice of Rockland) in New City. United Hospice of Rockland is a nonprofit organization that provides specialized comfort care to seriously ill individuals and their families.
Usually Ms. Schmidt, who does not drive, travels with a paratransit bus service, arranged by Arc of Rockland, an agency providing services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities. But on the evening of April 25, when United Hospice held its Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner, the bus service was unavailable.
For those who work with Ms. Schmidt at United Hospice of Rockland, it was unthinkable that she would miss the event, or that she would have to turn elsewhere to make arrangements.
Carol Galione, Volunteer Program Coordinator at United Hospice of Rockland, who had provided the initial training and orientation for Ms. Schmidt, explains their concern. “We love Elaine, and really wanted her to come to the dinner. When I told my co-worker Karen Mathis about it, she said, “Oh, I’d love to pick her up and bring her.”
“I can’t tell you how wonderful Elaine is—a ray of sunshine,” says Ms. Mathis, Office Manager of the Joe Raso Hospice Residence. “I live in Pearl River too, (we always talk about living in the same community) so when I heard about the transportation problem, I offered her a ride.”
It was that simple. What began as a volunteer job had turned into a special bonding experience based on an environment of mutual caring and respect.
It is a perfect example of the kind of dynamic envisioned by Arc of Rockland. “We want to provide opportunities for the people we support to be a part of the community-at-large-receiving job training, working alongside people of all abilities, volunteering and engaging in recreational activities,” explains Kathy Canter, Senior Director of Employment Services at Arc of Rockland.
In addition to her volunteer work with United Hospice of Rockland, Ms. Schmidt is employed in the laundry facility at the Holiday Inn in Orangeburg and as a store associate providing customer assistance at Arc of Rockland’s Glaze Pottery and Art Studio, also in Orangeburg.
Among her responsibilities at the Joe Raso Hospice Residence, Ms. Schmidt assists Chef Ramona Vitale, who described some of the traits that have made her popular among her co-workers. “Elaine is very conscientious, knows what needs to be done, and does it. I look forward to her coming in, getting me organized, putting things in order. I cook three meals a day for an average of 20-25 people, so there is always a lot to do. Elaine sanitizes all the tables, washes out cabinets and drawers, dusts, straightens up, helps with cleaning the refrigerator… she’s a very willing worker. “
“She loves to keep up-to-date on everything that’s going on,” adds Ms. Mathis. “Each time she comes, she asks how many patients we have now. She interacts with patients and family members and, once she knows one of the patients, never fails to ask how that person is doing,”
Ms. Schmidt feels the same way about her co-workers. “I do like working here. I’m learning all sorts of new things, and I’ve made some good friends,” she says.
So, how did the Awards Dinner go? “It was fun,” says Ms. Schmidt. “All the volunteers were honored. I’m glad I had the chance to go.”
Press release from ARC of Rockland