Paying it forward: Volunteer’s energy, attitude rub off

When Ruth Forshey started volunteering at Heartland of Marietta almost two years ago, her goal was to help her mother socialize and nudge her into participating in the array of activities offered by the post-hospital care facility.

“My mother became a resident and in order to get her affiliated with some friends and more comfortable, I would come down and interact and do activities with her. And then I became friends with the residents and the staff,” recalled Forshey.

Forshey soon found that she found interacting with the residents highly rewarding. Though her mother has since passed away, Forshey has remained an active volunteer.

Forshey’s energy and positive attitude has made an impact in a big way, noted Debbie Wilson, Heartland’s activity coordinator.

“Ruth has just been a big asset to the volunteer staff. She encourages people that she talks with to come in and volunteer. She makes all the volunteers feel very welcome,” said Wilson.

When the facility recently offered Forshey a part-time role as assistant activities coordinator at the facility, she jumped at the opportunity.

Now Forshey works at the facility on Saturdays and continues to volunteer her time on her days off.

Question: What are some of the activities you participate in with residents here?

Answer: We play bingo, and I might help the residents find numbers. We do arts and crafts. And they have some church activities, and there is singing. I help them find the pages, and I like to sing so I participate. We go on outings. For example, we’d go to Kmart to shop. I might take a resident who is wheelchair bound and help them get their list. We went to The Wilds last summer and had an awesome time. And sometimes I just sit and talk. A conversation or a smile goes a long ways.

Q: How did you transition from volunteering to taking on a position here?

A: I saw in the newspaper where they had an employee position open so I went ahead and applied, and interviewed, and got the job. I work Saturdays, and I fill in if someone is sick or needs a vacation day. And then in between workdays I still come in and volunteer.

Q: How did volunteering prepare you for a job here?

A: It’s been a real eye opener. As a family member I just came in and played the games. I didn’t see the full picture of just what all goes into what they have to do. But being a volunteer helped me because I got familiar with the staff, the residents and the routine. When you become an employee there are more details, more guidelines you have to follow.

Q: How does your job here differ from what you did as a volunteer?

A: As an activity assistant I come in and I announce the day’s activities. You go around and collect the residents. You set up the activities room. And then as an employee you check the residents’ participation and how they interact with others. As a volunteer you would just go out and play the game.

Q: What do you enjoy about your roles here?

A: I look forward to coming in. The more I can be with the residents the better. I’ve always been a people person. I’ve taken care of young people and older people my entire life. It just helps fill a gap. My kids are grown, so after the house work is done I need something to fill my time.

Q: Do any volunteering moments stand out as particularly memorable or rewarding?

A: Just the fact that someone comes up to you and asks ‘How are you doing?’ Or if you see someone that is kind of down, and you smile or talk to them and brighten their day. You see other residents helping each other. The residents also have an art show. They paint, color and draw pictures. It’s wonderful for them. It’s therapeutic for them, but it’s also great for the public to come and see as well.

Q: What are some other volunteer options that are available to people here?

A: You can volunteer with nursing care. We’re always looking for people to just come in and read to residents. Some residents might need a letter written, and they can’t do it on their own. There’s a big variety of things. People just need to come in and ask.

This interview was conducted by Jasmine Rogers.