The benefits of volunteering

A Cranbrook woman talks about what she has gained since becoming a volunteer

Volunteering can benefit the volunteer as much as the person they are helping. That’s the message one Cranbrook volunteer wants to share ahead of an information session later this month.

Diana Fitzpatrick, who is a member of the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary, began volunteering her time eight years ago during a dark period in her life.

Her husband of 27 years, Mark Fitzpatrick, had recently passed away, and Diana was struggling to cope.

“He was sick for a long time. You think that you’re prepared, but when it actually happened, I was not prepared,” Diana told the Townsman.

“I became so depressed. I felt like I went into a big black pit and I couldn’t get out.”

She went to her doctor and was given a prescription for antidepressants. But soon after, a friend invited Diana to join her on a volunteer shift at the former Steepleview extended care facility.

“The very first day that I walked out the door, I just said to myself, ‘Get over it. These poor people can’t go home; I can.’ After that first day, I was much better, and I’m still okay. I mean, I miss him, but there’s nothing I can do.”

She and a friend took coffee, tea and snacks to patients at Steepleview.

“We wore these pretty flowered red tops, and we’d just go around to each patient and give them what they wanted. And we always sat and talked to them,” said Diana.

Now she volunteers at the hospital, and is involved with Better At Home seniors support service. Diana recommends volunteering not just for what it gives to the community, but for what the volunteer gets back.

“Volunteering has helped me tremendously – absolutely tremendously. I look forward to going in every week. I absolutely love the job. I feel like I’m giving back to the community.

“Sometimes I feel guilty because it has helped me more than I’ve felt I was helping the people. But all the way around, everybody’s happy.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m just so glad I did it. I’ll continue to do it until I can’t walk.”

If you are interested in volunteering to help seniors, you can learn more about Cranbrook Better At Home at an information session coming up on Tuesday, March 25 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Community Connections Society’s meeting room, 125-10th Avenue South, next to the Associate Clinic. RSVP by phoning 250-426-2943 or emailing lharris_ccs@shaw.ca.

Better At Home helps seniors who need a hand at home with day-to-day, non-medical tasks such as housekeeping, minor home repairs, snow shovelling, and yard work, and who may need assistance getting to appointments or shopping.

If you think you may be suffering from depression, it’s important to seek medical attention. Contact Cranbrook Mental Health at 250-420-2210 or the East Kootenay Crisis Line at 1-888-353-CARE (2273).