Adults are often reminded to be careful what they do around children because they’ll mimic what adults do. Lucky for our community, Grace Poland’s father set a strong example of giving back.
“He was a lay person but he did the work of a pastor,” said Poland about her father. “He often visited sick people and people who were in need and I went with him. That’s probably where my interest in volunteering came from: Seeing how he handled people.”
Poland is now in her nineties and a regular volunteer at Breeze Park, a Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) Life Plan Community in St. Charles, Missouri. While she grew up inspired by the servant heart of her father, it wasn’t until the last of her five children went off to school that Poland herself got involved in volunteering.
“When my youngest child went to school all day, I had a hard time adjusting to having the full day to do housework,” explained Poland. “I had done that with some child under my feet all the time. So, I was having trouble with depression and the doctor suggested I volunteer.”
Volunteering would allow Poland to still be at home when her children were out of school and be flexible enough so if she needed to change her schedule she would be able to do that as well.
Poland remembered the hospital where her children were born had a regular volunteer program and she signed up. After training, she started volunteering on Tuesdays at a local hospital and Thursdays at the Lutheran Altenheim. She helped at the Altenheim for more than 30 years, bringing two neighbors along to volunteer with her. Poland later volunteered with an intergenerational program that encouraged older adults to go to schools and read with children.
This is the same work she looked to continue when she moved into a senior living community, but as it was summer the timing wasn’t right for her to volunteer in the area school. So, she began volunteering within her community by visiting fellow residents in the Care Center.
It was through this work that she met an LSS hospice social worker who mentioned the need for volunteers in the hospice program. Poland again signed up for training for this volunteer program and began volunteering with compassionate hospice in St. Louis.
“I’ve had a lot of different experiences,” said Poland. “You have to be versatile. It’s different with each resident, what they like and what they need.”
When she moved to Breeze Park, she continued to work with hospice, engaging in conversation and reading with residents who were in hospice. When she doesn’t have an assignment for her hospice volunteering, she visits residents in memory care communities and the Care Center through the LSS Senior Connections program. In fact, in just a little over one year she read 23 novels to one resident!
“When people marvel that I would spend time with them, I always tell them that I get more out of it than I give,” explained Poland. “You have to have volunteered to understand that. I think people are skeptical when they hear ‘you get more than you give’ but it isn’t much you give.”
Poland stays motivated to continue to volunteer work by remembering her favorite scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She acknowledges that it’s because of her faith that she does and is able to do this work.
To learn more about Breeze Park, including how to set up a tour, visit the Breeze Park web page.