Volunteerism Is A Hallmark Of Our Community

As we start out 2014, I would like to recognize and thank all the volunteers who help OFA either directly or indirectly throughout the year. Volunteerism seems to be a hallmark of our community, and I think it is what makes Western New York and specifically Chautauqua County a great place to live, work and play. Seniors who are frail and living on their own in the community rely on many people to help them so that they can continue to live as independently as possible in their own homes. Family members who provide daily or weekly assistance, neighbors who check in on them, and volunteers from many organizations who deliver meals, help get them to doctor appointments, and many other tasks that are necessary for daily living. We are very proud that OFA is able to touch so many lives each year, but it would not be possible without our community partners and many volunteers.

Studies show that volunteerism is also good for your health. One paper from Exeter UK Medical School reviewed 40 studies on the benefits of volunteerism. People who volunteer have less depression, increased feelings of well being and may actually live longer than those who do not. So think about volunteerism as part of your plan for better health in 2014.

One special project that OFA coordinates each December using many volunteers is our Holiday Senior Bag Program. This is such a great example of volunteerism since every county department, more than 20 community organizations and churches, and lots of individual volunteers come together to make this happen. It is quite an effort, but the rewards are so very worthwhile. These bags go to frail seniors living in the community – usually with some disability or physical challenge and little or no family or resources. This year, we brought 125 meals and 150 gift bags to area seniors who otherwise would not receive a present or visit.

The joy and happy tears on the faces of the people I visited was the best Christmas present I could receive. Many of our OFA elves had similar experiences but also remarked that many seniors they visited had nothing else in their refrigerators. Others commented on how the person was so glad for a visit since visitors seldom came to their homes. Even in Chautauqua County there are many people who are isolated and struggling to make ends meet. Our holiday bags are so well-received and needed that will be an ongoing OFA tradition.

Since government funds cannot be used for this project, we need to say thank you for the generosity and support of the following people and organizations who make this project possible: The residents of Chautauqua Institution, members of Hurlbut Church and Ed Schmidt – who raise all the money for the meals and coordinate with Wal-Mart to put these together; Carriage House; Harvest Chapel Free Methodist Church; Dunkirk First Presbyterian Church; Mayville American Legion; Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Aux.; Paws & Pals 4-H group; Pump it Up Fitness; Dunkirk Tops Market; CC Federal Credit Union; RSVP Volunteers; VA Medical Clinic in Jamestown; Eastern Star Clubs; Lakewood Rotary; Chautauqua County employees in the County Executive’s Office, Board of Elections, CASA Nurses, Child Support, Cost Avoidance, Finance Department, Human Resources, Information Technology, Motor Vehicles, Landfill, Law Department, Public Facilities and the Veterans Service Agency; Dawn Dopler; Denise Gross; Linda Hepler; Lisa Ver Hague; and to all the other county employees and friends of OFA who contribute through donations, assistance to deliver bags or by attending our fundraisers. Thanks!

For more information on OFA programs and services call our NY Connects Helpline at 363-4582, 753-4582, or 661-7582. Happy New Year!