As an ElderHelp volunteer for 24+ years, I have had the opportunity, and the privilege, to help so many seniors in so many ways. Through my work on the Home Safety & Maintenance team, I have been able to spend enough time with our seniors to get to know them and the wealth of knowledge and experience that they have accumulated over the years. To choose just one senior, to tell my story about, has been very difficult. There are so many that have enriched my life in many ways.

There is one however, who became a close friend. When I started volunteering with ElderHelp, I thought that I would go to a senior’s home, take care of whatever request had brought me there, say goodbye and move onto the next request. I had no idea how deeply they would affect me, and how much I would want to do all that I could to make their lives better. One client that stands out is Genelle. I met Genelle for the first time when a fellow volunteer and I conducted a Home Safety Inspection for her. As what typically happens during these inspections, several items were noted that we could do to make Genelle’s home safer and I ended up going back to her home several times to complete them. I also did monthly yardwork as well as a number of things outside of her home that needed attention. Over this time, I got to know more about her and something just clicked between us. A few years after I started helping her, she and her daughter decided that it was no longer safe for her to live alone in her home, so Genelle moved into an assisted living apartment in La Mesa.

Because she was no longer an ElderHelp client, my work for her came to an end. I decided that I could not let her go that easily, so I started visiting her there. We went out for lunch several times at her favorite place, Red Lobster. After a year or so, her daughter decided that it would be better if her mother moved to Utah, where she lived. We had a few more visits and lunches before Genelle moved to Utah. I kept in touch with her by phone, email and cards. One of my favorite phrases that she uttered when I said something funny was “Oh, you rascal!” I recorded a video outside of the house where she lived when we met and sent it to her on her birthday.

I told her that I would make the trip to Utah to visit her that following year. Unfortunately, that never happened. She took a turn for the worse and passed away peacefully with her daughter and son at her side. While I regret not making the trip to Utah, I am comforted with the memory of many good times with her. She added so much to my life, most of which I never expected as a volunteer. I am quite sure that many of you ElderHelp volunteers reading this, have experienced similar things with the seniors that you help. It is why I continue to volunteer and why I say that I receive more than I give in my journey with ElderHelp.

– John Silcox

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