They Care Like Family
by Mary Jane McCall
One of the many jewels that make our community such a special place is the Eckerd Living Center. Their bright campus, filled with light and flanked by beautiful gardens, is an incredible facility; and, their skilled and caring administration and staff strive to make certain that the residents’ needs are met, but also that they thrive.
Volunteers play a significant role in seeing that the residents stay engaged, and Activities Director Stephanie Mallonee says that they are blessed with dedicated and caring volunteers who donate significant time and energy by visiting and helping out on a regular basis.
Most telling is that many of these volunteers start as visitors coming to see a loved one. Gradually, they came to know and care for their loved one’s roommates and neighbors until they all felt like family.
“Family,” that’s a word you’ll hear a lot of here. It’s more, it’s also a feeling. So much so, that when their loved one passed away, they continue to volunteer.
Ed Kolakowski, whose wife was in hospice and passed away after only a short stay, says that the compassionate care and loving atmosphere made a lasting impression. His mission now is to help residents celebrate life, so he continues to volunteer weekly, helping with activities like Bingo and Dominoes, and making sure that everyone has a little fun.
Cookie McCall, whose mother-in-law was a resident for over four years, continues to lend a helping hand where one is needed, and most importantly, a listening ear and a compassionate hug when someone is feeling lonely or needs a lift.
“Sometimes they just need to talk,” she says, but she’s also a willing errand runner when someone needs a drink or an ice cream. “I keep coming back because I fell in love with the people, they’re my family.”
Kathy Cone, whose mother is a current resident, quickly realized that the little things matter – a friendly face, a helping hand, snacks, small gifts for bingo games, books and magazines. It takes just a little to make a big impact.
Hats off to the many volunteers who bring a bit of sunshine and happiness to The Eckerd Living Center.