"Moving to Arizona from Vermont a few years ago was exciting for us. After settling in, I soon realized that without small children or pets, meeting people would not be as easy. A neighbor, Sue, suggested I join her for a day to Volunteer with a charity that sounded very intriguing. Thanks to Sue, I’ve not only found a rewarding and fun way to give back to the community, but I have met some of the nicest friends!
I could immediately tell that ElderTLC was different than others I have experienced, where sometimes you felt like it was just a large business, doing the best that they could, but lacking connection. Cathleen, Linda & Tracy could not be more giving, generous or warm people. Honestly. Everyone who volunteers for ElderTLC relays these qualities about them! And, the service they provide for the less-fortunate in senior living facilities in Arizona is beyond anything I’ve come across before. One of the first things Cathleen explained to me was her philosophy for volunteering, which won me over immediately. That is, everyone has a hobby or a gift. They like to invite people to share those gifts within ElderTLC. For example, I love photography, and sharing my photos on Instagram. Cathleen right away asked if I would like to take photos for ElderTLC and post them on Instagram/Facebook. I was so excited! This was a perfect fit for me (and, I guess, for them!). And over the past few years, it’s become so evident that this philosophy works beautifully at ElderTLC. We have volunteers who are interested in marketing, organizing, decorating, socializing, shopping (seriously!), event planning, styling, sewing, crafting, jewelry making, baking—you name it—your hobby or gift is appreciated at ElderTLC!
Most important of all for me, is the gift of giving that ElderTLC provides. I am fortunate enough to also assist the facilities in their holiday shopping when they visit us. The stories I hear of their less fortunate residents, the love and gratitude they convey about ElderTLC, stays with me throughout the year. I even write down a lot of these stories, and tell family and friends about them. Charlie, a homeless man who had just been admitted to a Mesa facility, had a size 15 foot, so he had torn open his “shoes” at the toes so he could walk in them. We were able to give him a SIZE 15 pair of fluffy slipper/shoes for the Holidays! (*goosebumps*). Bill had been forced to leave behind his beloved and most important possession, a Golden Retriever, when he was placed in a senior living facility. We were able to provide a large stuffed animal Golden Retriever to make his holiday special (can you imagine his face when he opened THAT gift?). "
There are so many more heartwarming stories, and so many more reasons that I am grateful to have found ElderTLC. ~Lisa
I’m so happy that I found out about volunteer opportunities with ElderTLC in 2019. It has been such a rewarding experience whether creating gifts or setting up/taking down the shop. I especially loved shopping with nursing facility representatives at the shop. It was a joy to see their delight when we found the perfect gift for each of their residents. When one of the people I was helping came to tears because she was so happy with the gifts she would be able to present her residents, I teared up a little myself! It was also fun to work alongside the other enthusiastic volunteers who were clearly filled with the spirit of giving and making a difference for those less fortunate. ElderTLC does a great job helping our seniors in need and I’m proud to be part of their volunteer community.
My husband and I were delighted to help out with an ElderTLC shopping morning. The minute we showed up we were welcomed and put to work. There were several jobs, all of which were very rewarding. I was able to help two wonderful young women shop for over 125 residents at their facility. It was heartwarming to see how they knew their clients and could express their needs and give us ideas. I worked with another volunteer to give suggestions and label the gifts. Not only did I feel helpful I was also rewarded by their expressions of gratitude. As I shopped, my husband was at the inventory and packing station. He was also quite busy, getting all the gifts organized and ready for transport back to the senior living facility.
After we finished shopping, another volunteer and I checked in several boxes of donated clothing. We organized the items by sizes and inventoried them. I was so impressed by how efficient this whole operation is run. When I volunteer, I want to be put to work! Cathleen honored our time and made sure we had jobs that made a difference. We hope to help out again next year.
This was a fun and worthwhile experience. My heart is warmed as I think about the difference ElderTLC is making in the lives so many elder folks. Thank you!
Ruth looked around her room and saw that it was still dark outside. She was chilled, so she pulled the bedspread up to her chin. The little pink flowers reminded her of the garden she and her Mama used to have on the farm. They spent hours together working in the garden, while Mama sang songs. Tucked warmly under the covers, Ruth hummed her favorite one, “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey…”
Mama and Papa named her Ruth after a favorite aunt, but they always called her “Sunshine” after her favorite song. Even though it was only the three of them, Ruth, Mama and Papa, Ruth was never lonely. There were always plenty of people working on the farm. Every Sunday, Mama cooked a big meal and invited their workers and neighbors to the feast. Mama was known throughout the county for her famous fried chicken.
While they prepared the meal, Mama laughed about the antics of the week, “Wasn’t that funny when Elmer didn’t close the gate properly and the pigs got out? What a sight! Watching Elmer trying to catch them. Then you and Papa decided to help!”
Lying in bed, Ruth chuckled while remembering the incident. They eventually caught the pigs and returned them to their pen, but Ruth and Papa were covered in mud. Mama immediately sent them to the creek to wash.
Ruth sighed, “That was a long time ago. I miss you Mama.” Then she reached for the buzzer on the nightstand and remembered, “Of course it is chilly, it’s December.” She continued to think about Mama’s garden while she waited.
“Good Morning, Miss Ruthie. You’re up early today,” Lucy bustled into the room, flipped on the lights and opened the curtains, “Goodness, the sun isn’t even up yet! It feels like winter today, even for Phoenix. You’re definitely going to need your green sweater.”
Lucy pushed Ruth’s wheelchair over to the bed, “Shall we get you ready for the day?” Ruth swung her legs to the side of the bed and reached for the wheelchair. “Whoa, slow down there, Miss Ruthie, and give yourself a minute before you leap out of bed.”
Ruth sat on the side of the bed, “Lucy, did I ever tell you about the time the pigs got out of their pen?”
Although Lucy had heard this story multiple times, she responded, “What happened Miss Ruthie?”
Ruth giggled, “It was so funny, Papa and I chasing those pigs with Mama yelling at us. By the time we caught them all, we were covered in mud! Mama made us march down to the creek to wash. She wouldn’t let us step one foot inside the house until we were clean!”
“That must have been quite a sight!” Lucy reached for Ruth’s waist, “Now come on Sunshine, get up slowly and we’ll get you dressed.”
Ruth asked, “Am I expecting any visitors today? Are Amy and Nick coming to see me?”
“Now, Miss Ruthie, remember, your kids live and work the farm in Iowa. It’s hard for them to get away. You and Eddie moved here years ago to enjoy the sunshine, Sunshine. Come on, where is that green sweater I gave you for Christmas a few years ago?”
Ruth looked around the room for the sweater. There were pictures of her family everywhere. Mama and Papa on the farm, Eddie and her on their wedding day, and, of course, lots of pictures of Amy and Nick and their families.
“Lucy, what is Amy’s husband’s name?”
“Why Miss Ruthie, you know that. It is John.”
“Yes, yes, of course. John. And Jack and Beth are my grandchildren.”
“That’s right. And Nick is married to Susan. And their children are Tom, Martha, and Gracie. Tom has a baby now, Sophia. You are a Great Grandmother!”
“A Great Grandmother…”
“Today is a special day because it’s our Holiday Party! Let’s get you over to the dining room. I have a busy day getting ready for your party.”
“Of course, I didn’t mean to take so much of your time,” Ruth put her arm through the sweater and thought to herself, “Lucy gave me this sweater.” It was worn in some spots, but Ruth didn’t mind. She loved the sweater because Lucy gave it to her.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You are my favorite friend. Okay, let me button that for you.” Lucy finished the last button and exclaimed, “Off we go! Today’s breakfast is oatmeal and cranberries! A little holiday cheer to start the day.”
Ruth joined her friends at the table. Just like on the farm, she enjoyed being busy and having people around. There were lots of activities, and there was even a small garden in the courtyard. The staff was friendly, and she loved Lucy.
“Good morning Ruth,” Harriet said.
“Good morning Harriet. Lucy said our party is today.”
“Yes, it’s at 10:00 o’clock.” Harriet was younger than Ruth and lived across the hall. She was born and raised in Phoenix and her family lived in town. Every Sunday after church, her children and grandchildren would parade through the hall to Harriet’s room for a visit. Ruth thought they looked like the march of the penguins, but she probably was a little jealous. After all, Harriet had visitors every week! The grandchildren always smiled sweetly and waved as they walked by. Ruth usually kept her door open on Sundays, so she could watch this weekly routine.
After breakfast, Ruth wheeled herself to the window overlooking the garden. Once again, she was back on the farm.
“Ruth, Ruth! Where are you child?” Mama shouted.
“I’m here, Mama. In the garden.”
Mama walked to the garden bundled up in her warm coat, wool scarf and boots. “Now, Sunshine, what are you doing in the garden? It’s freezing cold and has begun to snow.”
“I know, Mama, but I’m waiting for Santa.”
“Yes, yes, of course. Come inside child. It’s time for bed and if Santa finds you awake, he will skip our house. Hurry now, I have the fire going and it’s warm inside.”
“Okay, Mama. Is Papa home?”
“Yes, he is reading and smoking his pipe. Now, run and put your pajamas on or Santa will pass us by!” Ruth looked at Mama, then raced to the house to get ready for bed.
“Good night, Mama. Good night, Papa!”
Papa looked up from his paper, “Good night, Sunshine.”
“Miss Ruthie? Are you okay?”
Ruth was startled, “Lucy?”
“Miss Ruthie, it is time for the Holiday Party! Let’s get you over to the Rec Room for the festivities!”
Ruth looked longingly at the garden, “Okay.”
There was excitement in the air while the residents and families gathered for the Holiday Party. It really didn’t bother Ruth that her children couldn’t come. Back when Eddie was alive, they had many wonderful holiday celebrations and Ruth loved reliving them. Ruth would enjoy watching Harriet open her gifts from her family of penguins. Lucy would probably have a gift for her and she felt bad because she didn’t have anything for Lucy this year, but Lucy always says that Ruth’s hugs were the best gift of all.
At the front of the room, the Director had a box filled with other gifts to distribute. She started calling out names. “Harold, Betty, Ruth….” Ruth looked around. Was there another Ruth in the room she didn’t know about? The name was repeated a little louder, “RUTH, where’s Ruthie?”
“Go on, Sunshine,” Lucy whispered. “It’s for you.”
Ruth slowly wheeled to the front. A large package wrapped with a red bow was handed to her. Ruth’s eyes were as big as saucers, “For me?” she whispered.
“Yes, this gift is for you.”
“Who’s it from?”
“It’s from some friends in the community who want you to have a happy holiday!”
Ruth put the package in her lap. It was big and beautiful, and she was as excited as a child. Lucy said, “Go on now, open it.”
Very carefully, Ruth took the ribbon off and peeled away the wrapping paper and found a pink and white crocheted blanket. “For me?”
“Yes, Sunshine, it’s for you. Someone knew pink was your favorite color. Let’s wrap your legs with it because it’s cold today!”
Ruth placed the beautiful blanket on her lap while Lucy tucked it around her legs. Her eyes sparkled with joy. For a moment, she felt like a child back on the farm at Christmas. “Thank you,” she said to Lucy.
Lucy hugged her, “Happy Holidays, Sunshine.”
ElderTLC hosted our first shoppers today! After a year of our own shopping, organizing, fundraising, packing & unpacking, moving, labeling and so much more, it feels GREAT to give such wonderful gifts to the seniors. Thank you to our wonderful volunteers—we couldn’t do it without you.
The caring staff at Desert Terrace Healthcare Center of Phoenix have finished their Holiday Shopping! 🎁🎁🎁 We can’t wait to see the faces of their residents when they receive their handpicked gifts in December!
Please say Hello to Lee Garcia. 🎅🏼 Lee is one of the amazing caregivers (and one of the longest employed) at Paseo Village Senior Care Community. Paseo Village is one of our fortunate recipients during the holidays. We spoke with Lee about his experiences:
ElderTLC: Lee, what has your experience been with residents who have no family or friends during the holidays?
Lee: “My experience is emotional to see residents that don’t have family members to care and bring joy during the holidays. This is why your help is greatly appreciated!”
ElderTLC: How do you determine who might benefit from our gifts?
Lee: “We make the decision accordingly to best meet their needs. Some might need shoes or sweaters, etc., so we decide case by case.”
Thank you, Lee! 🎅🏼. We’ll be back soon with more from Lee & Paseo Village.
When Judy Doseck showed up for her scheduled volunteer time for ElderTLC, she expected to sort inventory or make a gift basket, as she’d done on other days. But when she raised her hand to volunteer for making gift baskets, Cathleen Hartman, President of ElderTLC, told Judy that she had a special job for her today.
“I kept thinking to myself, ‘I hope it doesn’t involve cooking!’” Judy laughs.
Judy learned that ElderTLC had received requests for “fancy outfits” as gifts for three elderly women in senior care facilities, but only two outfits were available in inventory. To fill the last request, Cathleen went to JC Penny’s sale rack and searched for something spectacular.
“I found a really pretty black sparkly jacket, but it had several snags in it,” Cathleen says. “It was originally priced at over $70, now on sale for $10.”
Cathleen asked to speak with a manager in hopes to get the price down below ElderTLC’s budget of $5 per recipient. She explained ElderTLC’s mission, and her hopes that the jacket snags could be repaired.
“And so she did it,” says Cathleen. “She sold a $70 sweater to me for $4 something! I was ecstatic.”
Back at ElderTLC’s headquarters, Cathleen pulls Judy aside to ask about the sweater.
“I’m terrible at knitting, but I’m sort of handy with a needle and thread,” Judy says. “So she showed me this cardigan and said, is there anything you can do this? And I said sure! I do this sort of thing all the time.”
Judy says she was drawn to ElderTLC because of the effort the organization puts into meeting individual recipient requests.
“It’s such a personal level,” Judy says. “If they happen to like Led Zeppelin, or want a baseball cap, ElderTLC tries pretty hard to satisfy that need.”
Over the next half an hour, Judy carefully repaired the sweater by pulling the snags to the back of the garment and tying them off. By the time she was done, the snags were completely gone from view.
“I imagine it made someone’s Christmas very sparkly,” Judy says.
2017 Update: ElderTLC gave hundreds of blankets, clothing, personal care items and more as gifts to 1,042 recipients in 12 different senior cares facilities!