Story and Photos by John Grossi
Ahhhh… retirement… now what? When Angela Tasker retired, her goal was to relax for as long as she felt like it. After a long sales career following her service in the US Military, she was ready for rest.
“That lasted just two short months,” laughs Angela, “then I was like, okay, it’s time to get back to volunteering.”
Angela fell in love with volunteering at an early age and always made it a major part of her life, even during her career. For 18 years, Angela volunteered with prison ministry and other organizations.
“I like what you get back when you give back to other people. There’s no way to describe how it fulfills you,” says Angela.
Angela started her retirement “give-back mission” by volunteering with Meals on Wheels. While she had always liked the organization’s work, when she began volunteering, she found that packaging food wasn’t quite giving her the satisfaction she was looking for. She wanted to be able to see the impact she was making.
Volunteerism with a Direct Connection
Angela went online and found another organization who needed volunteers - an organization she had never heard of called Pathways caught her eye. From her first training, one that Angela labeled as “eye-opening,” to the first family she was paired with, Angela felt the satisfaction she was looking for.
“I really like the small group and one-on-one interactions with Pathways,” says Angela. “I think it’s a bigger impact when I can actually see the benefit of what I’m doing.”
What Tasker was really drawn to was the mission and purpose of Pathways. “Companionship for older adults,” she explains. “They have a hospice and a grief support side of the organization too, but I went right into the companionship side of things.”
Pathways volunteers like Angela are paired with older adults, who for one reason or another, need a companion, someone to talk to.
Angela and other companionship volunteers go to a client’s home for about 2 hours every week and visit with the client and/or family. What they do is completely separate from the medical needs of the client. They are not there to treat people, they are there to listen to them, to be a friend, and to be someone who cares.
Becoming a Part of the Family
Angela shared that even though you are assigned to an individual person, your impact as a volunteer reaches the whole family. Her first client assignment with Pathways was a man who had suffered a stroke. When she went to visit him, she quickly realized that her purpose was not only to keep him company but to also lend an ear to his wife who was struggling with the sudden change in their lives. Angela became a listener for the wife and a communicator for the husband. She and the wife would talk for hours while the husband, who had trouble speaking, would listen and enjoy.
When her client had to go to the hospital for a long period of time with COVID, Angela continued to comfort his wife on the phone for hours each week. Both the husband and wife tell Angela Tasker regularly that she is truly a part of their family.
Beyond her ability to help comfort the client and his wife, Angela noted that the main role of a Pathways volunteer is to listen to the trials and tribulations of older adults on a weekly basis so that when the client has time to spend with their children and grandchildren, they have already vented about their daily struggles.
“I’m there to listen no matter what their emotions are that day” said Angela, “Because the wife is able to talk to me about the challenges she faces, when her kids come over she doesn’t feel the need to vent to them. Her time with her family is much more meaningful and valuable!”
Reinvesting in People
Angela gets immense joy out of her volunteering with Pathways and sees the need for the organization to grow its numbers, both in volunteers and clients. From just a small level of commitment from a volunteer, the organization can help so many older adults feel the connection they crave.
“We live in a world where we so undervalue the older residents in our country… we sort of dismiss them,” said Angela when asked why she connected so much with Pathways’ mission, “With this, we’re reinvesting into people again. As long as you breathe, you still have something to give to this world!”
Pathways works closely with their volunteers and clients to match people that might be a great fit. Consider volunteering at Pathways today and making a major impact on your community. Go to https://pathwayschb.org for more information.