Without the steadfast commitment of our volunteers, it is hard to imagine making it to the 50-year mark. Each and every time volunteers help; they make a direct impact on the lives of the people we serve and the employees who care for them. The additional hands on projects means we can get things done faster, and the additional attention paid to certain tasks opens up time for staff to get the important work done first. Being able to rely on the trusted advocacy and efforts of those who support us, makes us stronger and more capable. With 300 people living in our 37 homes or receiving services in their private homes, and 500 staff, the 600 volunteers who help us at Living Well make it possible to enrich and brighten the lives of many.

We are grateful to all who volunteer for their commitment to helping the people we serve live well. By showing up week after week, season after season, or for one-time opportunities, they show the people we serve that they support them and want to be part of their community. There is nothing better than being of service and we are beyond grateful for their time and support.

To showcase the work in numbers, because of our incredible volunteers we were able to accomplish all of this during the past year alone:

-Prepare 3,456 pans of freezer meals, providing 34,560 servings of food! This helps staff commit more time to individualized care and supplies nutritious meals for all!

-Complete 140 deliveries to our homes per month, for 1,680 trips last year! This saves staff time and is appreciated beyond measure.

-Beautify 32 homes via gardening and yard clean up. The homes shine from the outside after each visit!

But while numbers and data are important, it’s the people and the tasks that make a difference. Our Meal Masters program was started before Covid but took off when things shut down and staff really needed extra time for one on one care. Those meals became essential, and so appreciated! The deliveries also ramped up during Covid but will likely be a fixture of volunteer offerings for years to come as they take a few errands off the to-do lists. And gardening and yard clean up is a huge hit because of the immediate difference it makes, but it’s not the number of plants that matter. The beauty gardens bring to the homes, and the smiles they bring to the faces of all involved in the process, is priceless.

To get a full picture of the variety of our helpers, let us introduce you to six people and groups who continuously show up and support Living Well.

Jean Jentz, Yoga Instructor Volunteer

Jean has been volunteering with Living Well since 2019. She teaches a one-hour yoga class on site at Northland almost every week, with a break for the pandemic. Class is open to all employees, and is part of Living Well’s Employee Wellness Program. Jean is a skilled instructor who is both generous with her time and yoga talents, as well as knowledge and advice about wellness and well-being programs. She invites people to incorporate yoga and wellness into their busy lives. Jean says, “It is a joy for me to teach yoga at Living Well, because I always feel welcome and appreciated. Everyone is exceptionally affirming, kind, accommodating, and really nice!” Program Manager, and class participant Suzie Tuccitto, adds, “I love that Jean brings contagious positivity. She shares her passion, and we are lucky to be a part of that passion. I have learned so much over the past months about yoga and have really gained an appreciation for Monday’s when Jean is with us!”

Greg Solie, Handyman Volunteer

Greg has been volunteering with Living Well as a handyperson at our Victoria Road home since 2017. He comes multiple times per month to help with minor household needs—anything from hanging a TV, assembling a grill, picking up supplies at Menards or organizing the shed. No matter the task at hand, Greg is their go-to helper. In addition to the Victoria Road home, Greg has been instrumental in providing help and guidance over the last year as we prepared to downsize that home from a larger space for 12 people, to three smaller homes with four people per home. Greg is committed to continuing to help at the three new homes, Mears, Cloman and Selkirk, and is helping with the move this week! When asked why he likes volunteering, Greg says, “It gives me a chance to make other people’s lives better and I get to work with great people.” It’s a very mutual feeling, and that staff adds, “We are grateful to have Greg as our Volunteer. Thank you for all your time and hard work, Greg.”

Sam Trammell, Northland Office Volunteer

Sam is high school student at our neighbor St. Thomas Academy. He started back in January 2021. He has assembled hundreds of freezer meals and is always working diligently and offering up extra help. Sam has also been a Pen Pal with one of the people we support with Customized Services, and has regularly corresponded with her since early last year. Continuing with his generosity, Sam has been coming into Northland once a week to collect the recycling from the entire office and kitchen and taking it out to the dumpster. To some this may feel like an odd task, but it had been piling up since there were not as many people onsite, and the small act of taking out recycling has turned out to be a huge benefit to the staff. Office Manager, Cheri Edwall, says, “Sam has always been so helpful, and he brings his positive attitude in all he does!” Sam is graduating in a couple weeks and moving on to his busy life, so we are sad his time with is coming to an end!

Kelsey Joson, Movement Volunteer

Kelsey has been volunteering with Living Well since 2017. She shares her knowledge and skills as an adaptive physical education teacher and her experience coaching, training, and mentoring with people who live at our 3801 W. Broadway home.  Kelsey encourages the individuals she partners with to enjoy more movement in their lives while building strength, balance, flexibility, and mobility. Her passion for wellness and fun is contagious! Kelsey says, “Volunteering with Living Well brings me true joy. The staff I volunteer with are extremely supportive and pleasant to work with. I feel welcome every time I show up which makes it easy to donate time and talents. Living Well has given me a unique opportunity to give back to a community that is more than deserving of my love and time.” Program Manager, Cindi Sharpe, adds, “Kelsey is energetic and full of positivity. She is able to push the people she works with in a way that they enjoy and helps them make life improvements. When Dale see’s her says ‘Oh you again?’ teasing her with a big grin on his face. Mary reluctantly participates, giving Kelsey a run for her money, but admits she has helped her make some much needed improvements in both balance and stability. Peggy on the other hand can’t wait for Kelsey to get there and is always ready to rock it out with Kelsey no matter hard she works her!.” Peggy says, “I’m lovin’ it!”

The Ly family, Meal Master Volunteers

The Ly family has been volunteering with LW since 2020 when they answered our call for help at the beginning of the pandemic. They showed up when we needed them most and have been involved ever since. They regularly assemble freezer meals, and have made hundreds of meals by now. When visitors weren’t allowed due to safety precautions, the family also supported our homes in Maplewood by donating fun holiday gift baskets. They even contributed gift cards to our staff appreciation day. On top of that, mom Kristy has joined our Human Rights Committee as one of the community members and is sharing her knowledge as a nurse. Kathy Anderson, Volunteer Program Manager, says, “It’s always fun when the Ly family is here volunteering! I appreciate their understanding of Living Well’s mission and their emphasis on doing what they can to support people to live their best lives. Their kindness and generosity is priceless.” The Ly’s say, “Our family enjoys volunteering with Living Well for many reasons including the opportunities to see the smiles on the people we directly impact and the friendly staff who are very passionate about their mission and work. Living Well provides a welcoming environment for all, our children especially. Their creativity makes volunteering fun.”

Enterprise Fleet Management, Corporate Supporters and Volunteers

Enterprise Fleet Management has been giving back to Living Well ever since they became a vendor with us many years ago. Van Truong, Senior Client Strategy Manager, and her team have been dedicated to assisting our Brookview home with yardwork for a few years now. They not only take care of all the work—raking, trimming, mulching, planting—but they also donate plants and flowers to really add to the beauty of the home. Van says, “One of our core values at Enterprise is we strengthen our communities – one neighborhood at a time.” She says the Enterprise Holdings business began in neighborhoods and that they owe their success to the people in the communities. Adding that they are committed to supporting them and growing, together. The Enterprise Fleet local group here in Minnesota enjoys getting out in the community as a team to help our nonprofit customers. She says, “Living Well has been a wonderful partner to Enterprise Fleet over the years and we are so happy to be able to connect with our customers. Being able to volunteer and being able to request grants from our Enterprise Foundation has been one of my favorite parts of my job.” Lyndsey Thomas, Program Manager at Brookview is delighted by the partnership and says, “We love having Van and her Enterprise team volunteer at our home. They are willing to take items off our To Do List and go above and beyond to make our home look excellent. I so appreciate their energy and enthusiasm when they arrive and how happy they are to help us complete tasks we may not have been able to. It means so much!”

Thank you to all past, present and future volunteers! If you are interested in finding ways to help out, in person or remotely, please contact Kathy Anderson, Volunteer Program Manager kathy.anderson@livingwell.org or (651) 242-5141.