June 3, 2021

The Latest with our Kline Galland Volunteer Program

Alyssa Bobman Cohen is no stranger to the volunteer program at Kline Galland. In fact, she began volunteering when she was only 12 years old. She is now Kline Galland’s Director of Volunteer Services and shared some insights on what has happened over the past year, where the program is headed, and the incredibly important work that the volunteers have been doing to engage the Kline Galland community.

What has the last year been like for the volunteer program?

Thinking back to March of last year, we had to change our guidance and policies quickly. This included phasing out in-person volunteers. At varying points in the months that followed, we thought that maybe we would return to normal, but quickly realized that was not the case. Interacting with volunteers is such an important part of the day for our residents, so we worked hard to find ways to keep these relationships going remotely.

However, since the vaccine has become available for our residents and volunteers, we have been able to slowly bring back in-person volunteers. We actually see this as an opportunity to adapt and strengthen some of our organizational practices, ensuring residents, volunteers and employees are as safe as possible.

What are some creative ways you’ve been able to engage volunteers in activities at a distance?

We’ve introduced a number of new programs, but two fan favorites are our pen-pal program and the Mitzvah Mailings! We’ve received hundreds of different Mitzvah Mailings – which are cards, notes, drawings or photos that are sent to us and distributed amongst the residents to brighten their days. Really, it’s anything someone can do creatively from the safety and comfort of their home.

Our ongoing pen-pal exchange program with the Plus One Foundation is also a highlight for residents. They always look forward to receiving these letters and engaging with new people.

What are some of the needs Kline Galland has as the in-person volunteer program begins to re-open?

We have a continued need for one-to-one visiting. These visits are even more important now than they were before the pandemic. We will also be gradually bringing back group activities, which means we would love to talk to volunteers about special skills or interests they have to engage our residents. We know that our volunteers are passionate about what they do, and it shows. For example, one volunteer has a large tulip garden and has been bringing in flowers every couple of weeks for residents to arrange.

What are some safety measures you are taking within the volunteer program?

Safety is our first and foremost concern. We are asking all volunteers to be fully vaccinated (two weeks after a final dose of any of the three vaccinations). Our volunteers are masked, participating in the same screening requirements that are in place for staff and visitors when they arrive, and are being routinely tested for COVID-19 (weekly or within 72-hours of an in-person volunteer shift).

How do you see the rest of the year playing out for the volunteer program?

We want to focus on giving time and attention to each volunteer individually, whether it’s someone who has volunteered pre-pandemic or is a brand-new to the Kline Galland family. Our volunteers bring so much passion and talent to the table, and their absence in the buildings over the last year has reinforced what an immense impact they have on the residents and organization as a whole.

If you or someone you know is thinking of a way to engage with others, build a sense of community, or share their talents and skills, we would love to hear from you as we rebuild our in-person volunteer program. You are needed now more than ever!

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