Helping is its own reward, says healthcare center volunteer

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
Delivering books is just one of the many tasks volunteer Cindy Trenholm has performed at Glastonbury Healthcare over the past seven years. Photo by Steve Smith.
Delivering books is just one of the many tasks volunteer Cindy Trenholm has performed at Glastonbury Healthcare over the past seven years. Photo by Steve Smith.

Cindy Trenholm has been volunteering at Glastonbury Healthcare's facility on Hebron Avenue for about seven years. She said she felt the urge to lend a hand after her mother was in a nursing facility and then passed away. When offered a volunteer position, she agreed because “they needed help,” she said.

She has stayed there for so long because of the pleasant working environment, but also because she loves meeting the residents and hearing their stories. She brings the book cart around, transports residents to programs and events, and assists with recreation activities, among other duties.

In addition to taking classes at Trinity College, the Manchester resident currently volunteers for about half a day, one day a week, plus some other occasional visits.

“If you just ask them where they lived and what they do, they just get going,” she said. “I love it. One of my favorite things to do is to hang calendars on the first of every month, because I go into every single room and chat. I've also read to residents. I read ‘Tom Sawyer’ to a resident once, and it was the first time I read it. We loved it.”

With that same resident, she said she used to have philosophical conversation, because his mind was really sharp. That was just one of the many connections she made with the residents. She has one current “favorite” that she makes a point to visit with every week.

“She has great stories, because she is from Lithuania,” she said of the resident. “She lived through World War II and escaped from [Nazi-occupied] Lithuania.”

Trenholm said she feels like her work benefits the residents, and can be therapeutic for them. “Just having someone to talk to, a touch or just a hug,” she said. “Sometimes it's something simple like helping put someone's sweater on. That does seem to help. You can just tell that it's making a difference. It's human contact.”

Sometimes, Trenholm said, the tasks she performs are very helpful, as they allow the medical professionals to perform more-important tasks.

When the weather is nicer she also takes residents outside, to the gazebo on the center grounds. “The staff doesn't have time to take people outside for 10 minutes, so that's a good thing,” she said.

Trenholm, who is also a singer, has also regularly brought other singers in to entertain the less-mobile residents, and, at times, to sing hymns, at a family's request, when a resident is close to passing. “We sing every other month or so, by request,” she said. “One resident asked me to sing 'Autumn Leaves.' I didn't know that song, so I Googled it, and now we have a notebook of songs – mostly the old standards – and sing them in arrangements for three parts.”

Trenholm said the recreation directors she's worked with at the center – including the current director, Alexis Chiucarello – create some great programs and allow her to provide input. “I like coming in and knowing where to go and what to do,” she said, “and knowing what's expected of me.”

Many students from local high schools volunteer at the center for community service hours, but Trenholm said most of the volunteers are between the ages of 40 and 60. Her daughter and other volunteers' children have also taken part.

Most of all, Trenholm said she feels like she is indeed adequately compensated for her efforts. “I feel like it's something we should be doing,” she said. “Sometimes I wonder who gets more benefit – me or the people we're doing things for. I feel really good when I walk out of here. I wish I could put more time in. You get great joy and satisfaction when you know you're doing good.”

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