Volunteers who help those in need through The Center for Volunteer Caregiving quickly feel like family.
Last year, volunteers in Wake County drove more than 41,000 miles taking seniors and adults with disabilities to the doctor, grocery store and on other essential errands.
The bonds on those trips grow. One of those special relationships developed between Cary resident Jean Bucher and Nancy Nguyen, who volunteers through Friendly Visits, another of the Center’s free services.
Jean is a survivor and doesn’t easily ask for help. She moved to Cary after Hurricane Katrina hit her home in New Orleans.
“We had to move quickly to the third floor of our apartment building, and I lost everything – my car, furniture, clothes,” said Jean, 85.
Long before the hurricane hit, Jean survived three hold-ups at the bakery where she worked.
“Twice robbers came in with guns and I gave them what was in the register,” Jean explained. “That last time with the knife really scared me.”
After moving to Cary more than 10 years ago, Jean became a survivor again. This time, she faced cancer. Bucher struggled at times to keep going through the surgery and treatments.
Today, she faces challenges of loneliness and not being able to get out much.
“My family isn’t able to visit very often, and my husband died before the hurricane,” Jean said.
Jean’s situation changed when she called the Center for Volunteer Caregiving in Cary and asked if someone could visit with her.
It was around that same time that Nancy contacted the Center.
“I didn’t know anyone here and wanted a way to give back to the community the way I had in Virginia,” said Nancy, 34, who lives in Durham.
The Center gave Nancy a way to help someone in need. Once Nancy completed the training, she was matched with Jean for a meeting that felt a little bit like a first date.
“I was nervous and hoped it would go well,” said Nancy. “It turned out to be a great experience because Ms. Jean is very loving, and I have learned so much from her positive attitude.”
When Nancy talks about her volunteer work, she reminisces about what it was like to have an adoptive grandmother, Elizabeth, who sponsored her parents when they moved from Vietnam to Virginia.
“My grandmother Elizabeth taught us so much and helped us with little things like going to the dentist and church,” Nancy said. “It didn’t seem like I could ever repay her for being so kind to our family, and helping Ms. Jean is a way of paying it forward.”
Jean’s face lights up and she laughs when she talks about Nancy.
“She’s like a granddaughter to me,” said Jean. “When I turned 85, Nancy brought me a cake with candles.”
Nancy and Jean’s story will be documented by Blueforest Studios, a Raleigh video production firm that works with agencies and nonprofits to spur action. The Center was selected from 35 applicants to get a free video through the firm’s Blueforest Gives Back initiative, which is awarded to a Triangle nonprofit. The final video, “Come as You Are Ready to Serve,” will be shown several times Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Blueforest Studios in Raleigh.
I had ringside seats to Nancy and Jean’s story through my new job as the Center’s community engagement coordinator. If you are ready to be like family to someone who lives alone and is in need, consider volunteering for The Center.
It’s truly beautiful when volunteer matches like Nancy and Jean’s come together. You can’t tell who’s luckier: Jean, for having Nancy’s friendly visits or Nancy, for having Jean love her like a granddaughter.
Liza Weidle is the community engagement coordinator for the Center for Volunteer Caregiving. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ The video premiere is Thursday, Dec. 1, at Blueforest Studios at 5809 Departure Drive, Suite 108 in Raleigh. There will be holiday food and festivities plus three showings of the short video at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. Register at blueforeststudios.com/bfgb/ or go to www.volunteercaregiving.org.
▪ Register for volunteer training to help with service areas that include transportation, friendly visits and respite on Wednesday, Dec. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Center, 1150 SE Maynard Road, Cary. Online training is available. Go to www.volunteercaregiving.org.