” ‘Cause You Gotta Have Friends…”
In this month’s Spotlight, we’re delighted to feature two inspiring volunteers and friends, Dorothy (Doris) Rzepecki and Gerri Hamilton.. They have volunteered weekly for 20 and 16 years respectively at Rolling Meadows High School. And as if that’s not enough, they also each volunteer four hours a week at Alexian Brothers Medical Center!
Doris and Gerri have been friends for over 70 years and watch out for each other. Gerri no longer drives, so Doris drives for both of them. The personal highlight for Doris of her long volunteer career was being nominated for the Pelican Award at Alexian Brothers, their highest volunteer honor. The pelican, a symbol used by the Alexian Brothers Congregation for hundreds of years, represents the sacrifice of Christian charity.
Both Gerri and Doris were nominated for the Celebrate Service Award through Senior Corps-RSVP this year, because of their long and consistent service to the community. Doris has over 8,200 reported volunteer hours and Gerri has 5,400 hours. That’s the equivalent of six years of full-time employment between them! Volunteers like Doris and Gerri, who give selflessly to their community, are one of the things that make America great.
“Alone we can do so little, together, we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
As you would imagine, Gerri and Doris are well respected by the staff at the High School. Robert R. Yerkan, College Counselor expresses it best. “With their years of dedicated service to the Student Services Department at Rolling Meadows High School, Doris and Gerri have become part of the Mustang Family. Their unwavering commitment to volunteering in our department every Wednesday, and other days if needed, is invaluable. Their sense of dedication is both admirable and unparalleled. In the rare event that they cannot come in, usually due to weather, they are profusely apologetic. They are perfect examples of, and role models for, the concept of “giving back.”
Why do they volunteer? “Because it keeps me busy and I’m happy with all of the people I’m in contact with; everyone is very nice; they’re family,” says Doris as Gerri smiles in agreement. They agree that volunteering keeps your mind going.
That notion is backed up by good scientific research. Here’s some interesting data from the Corporation of National & Community Service.“Over the past two decades we have seen a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
Comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering, whether because they are more likely to face higher incidence of illness or because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing. Some of these findings also indicate that volunteers who devote a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.” 1
What would they say to other people who are thinking of volunteering? “It’s the best thing you can do to keep yourself busy and to meet new people,” they both chime in. If you’ve been working on a friend to join you in volunteering, keep at it. Doris had to work on Gerri for a long time to get her started. “I kept telling Doris no, no, no and she kept saying yes, yes, yes,”laughs Gerri. But once Gerri started, she was hooked right along with Doris. And the best part is, they’ve done it together. If you’re looking for some good places to volunteer together with your friends or a place to make new friends, here are some ideas to get you started:
Let Your Love of Shopping Help Your Community:
Make a New Friend Through the Friendly Visitor Program:
Help the Environment Together: