Volunteers at Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

April 18, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Announcements

We asked volunteers why they decided to give their time, what the most gratifying part of their experience is and what they would tell others thinking about becoming volunteers.

Here’s what they had to say:

Kristina Zheng, 7E, Mott

Why did you decide to volunteer at MM? 

KZ: I decided to volunteer at Michigan Medicine because I wanted to help people feel more comfortable in the hospital setting, which can sometimes feel like a daunting and overwhelming place. I’m also passionate about connecting with people and trying to understand different backgrounds and experiences, and I feel that volunteering has given me the opportunity to do just that.

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience? 

KZ: From seeing peoples’ faces light up when we’ve reached the correct hospital destination to helping patients feel more comfortable before and after surgery, I feel very gratified knowing that I was just a small part of someone’s experience at Michigan Medicine.

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

KZ: Definitely try it out! It’s a great way to meet new people while also challenging yourself to navigate a hospital setting. I’ve had many interactions with patients, families and health professionals that I probably would have never met and have learned a lot about the hospital by volunteering! 

Dwight Wilson, 11W pediatric cardiology

Why did you decide to volunteer at MM? 

DW: In 2011, as soon as I retired my wife said, “Why don’t you do what you want to do?” I began writing and have published 14 books, one of which, “Whispering to Babies,” is a memoir centered on caring for babies. I took care of all my younger siblings and cousins from a young age — changing diapers, making formula and babysitting. I am the oldest grandchild. So, I asked Michigan Medicine Volunteer Services if I could start holding babies as soon as possible. I’ve been volunteering on Monday mornings ever since. I like starting my week here.   

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience?  

DW: Volunteering at Michigan Medicine is both an honor and a joy. It brings out the best in me. I am getting as much from the babies as I am giving. It’s a mutual relationship. I enjoy the relationships I build with the parents as well. So many times, parents come in the room, and they don’t want to take their own baby from me because they can see I’m enjoying it so much.  

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

DW: Babies and families need us. It’s pure joy. There is nothing onerous about it. If you question whether you can do it or not, you can. The babies will teach you. Let them lead. Each is a unique person without biases and free of peer pressure.  

Harish Patel, surgery reception, UH

Why did you decide to volunteer at MM? 

HP: I decided to begin volunteering in 2008 at Michigan Medicine. I think of volunteering as more than serving society. Volunteering is giving back to society something you have taken in advance. So it is giving back out of gratitude.

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience?  

HP: I am grateful to Michigan Medicine for giving me an opportunity. I truly enjoy welcoming people, meeting people and sharing thoughts with visitors and employees. I strongly believe we must support each other and grow together. 

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

HP: I would suggest students to volunteer because it gives them a habit to serve which will be useful throughout life. It makes them a better citizen because their professional work will be done with servitude. I would suggest retirees to be volunteers because they have maturity, experience and lots of time. 

Barb and Charlie, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

Why did you decide to Volunteer at Meals on Wheels?

B&C: First I must say when I started this endeavor the organization was called Motor Meals. I guess that is an indication of how long I’ve been doing this. Furthermore, I sort of inherited the position. My mother, Arlene Schmid, delivered meals for about 35 years. As she aged, I decided to join her for safety’s sake. When she could no longer deliver the meals I just kept on doing so — for a while with my brother Bill and now with my husband, Charlie.  We believe it is important to give back to your community and we enjoy working with the staff at Meals on Wheels of Ann Arbor and the clients. 

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience? 

B&C: It is clearly the delivering of the meals to the individuals. The smiles we receive and gratitude from the clients just makes our day. Sometimes we don’t even have a common language but the smiles say it all. We look forward to this contact every week.  

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

B&C: If you are looking for a way to help your community, this is one you should consider. Meals on Wheels of Ann Arbor is a very well-run organization. The staff is like family and will do all that they can to help you learn the ropes and answer any questions you may have. They care about the recipients and their welfare and look to us to help them meet that commitment. 

Erik Yamakado, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

Why did you decide to volunteer at Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels? 

EY: I was searching for a volunteering opportunity that was focused on supporting the local community, which allowed for flexibility in scheduling and which took the necessary health precautions in face of the pandemic. AAMOW appeared to check all those boxes, so I signed up. I had free time and was privileged to be able to drive and to own a car, so I thought that I might as well spend time with AAMOW. 

?What has been the most gratifying part of your experience?  

EY: A brief background about myself — I work as an occupational therapist at a hospital. A significant part of my job is making discharge recommendations for where a patient should go after their stay in the hospital, like returning home, progressing to a rehab facility, etc. Obviously, most patients would prefer to be discharged to home, but I can only make that recommendation if it is appropriate and safe. Sometimes, barriers to a home discharge include a patient’s limited ability to prepare meals safely and independently and a lack of financial and social support, resulting in decreased accessibility to healthy foods. Programs, such as AAMOW, can assist an individual in aging in place by improving access to food. That is an aspect of AAMOW that I appreciate. 

?What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

EY: As a volunteer, you can support the local community and potentially make a difference in a client’s life, no matter how small or large that difference may be. I personally view “selflessness” as a spectrum with “selflessness” on one side and “selfishness” on the other, meaning that no single action is 100% selfless or 100% selfish. Through volunteering opportunities, you can selflessly provide your time to other people and for meaningful causes, but you can also take joy and pride in the fact that you could be making a positive difference. 

Lindsey and Nolan, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

Why did you decide to volunteer at Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels? 

L&N: I was looking for a way to introduce my son to volunteering and contributing to our community in a meaningful way. We have been volunteering for 7+ years and I am so proud he continues to enjoy the opportunity and learn about contributing to a team as well. 

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience?  

L&N: The most gratifying part of my experience is watching my son interact with clients. Especially clients who are quiet or may not interact much otherwise, but they seem to really connect with a young person.  

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

L&N: I sincerely want everyone/anyone to consider how they can give to others. Engaging in actions that go beyond our day-to-day concerns, and in such a complex world, it really is a profound experience to volunteer and give a little of your time and connect with another human being. So many philosophers and leaders have talked about “one person” at a time, and it really does make a difference (Mother Theresa, etc.). And you never know when someone else will be grateful. 

John Yang, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

Why did you decide to volunteer at Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels? 

JY: I think Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels is a great organization because of how it lets community members connect with and interact with senior citizens who might be feeling lonely or downcast. Because my grandparents lived in China, I really cherished this opportunity to help out seniors in my own community and do something helpful for the world. 

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience? 

JY: The most gratifying experience from volunteering at Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels was when my friend and I were delivering to a community home which was primarily full of seniors from China. The senior citizens gave us a really warm welcome when we were delivering meals and were incredibly gracious when we talked to them in Chinese. It was really rewarding to have my identity as an Asian American play a role in helping senior citizens feel more accepted. 

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

JY: I think Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels is a gratifying and fulfilling experience, and I believe that anyone who wants to do something for their community should consider volunteering here. 

Raj Kutty, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

Why did you decide to volunteer at Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels? 

RK: A healthy meal and a safe shelter are the two most primary needs of any human being. For me to be a small part of this wonderful program where we can take a warm, delicious and healthy meal to every senior’s doorstep is extremely fulfilling to me as an individual as I help contribute to their health and well-being.  

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience? 

RK: The most gratifying experience is the little smile we are able to put on the faces of the seniors and those in need that we deliver to week after week. That smile goes a long way in the physical and mental benefits of the people we are trying to help. 

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

RK: For those who are thinking about becoming volunteers at the Meals on Wheels program, this will be an ideal opportunity for you to lend a helping hand for those in need. It will certainly be a great way of how you can be part of making notable improvements in someone’s health with your care and compassion. Trust me, you will not regret making this decision. 

Rita Hu, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

Why did you decide to volunteer at Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels? 

RH: I moved around a lot growing up and I was introduced to Meals on Wheels when I moved to the U.S. myself and studied in a boarding school in the Bay Area. I went on routes with one of our dorm parents and discovered so much about the community. Since then, volunteering for Meals on Wheels has been one of the first things I do when I move to a new place. The professional reason is that I am a doctoral student in social work and developmental psychology studying ageism and older adults’ social relationships. AAMOW is a great opportunity for me to put study findings in perspective and learn about the daily lives of people I hope my research will serve. 

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience? 

RH: I mainly drive two routes and one of them I drove weekly for a year. I started to learn Russian from a client on the route. She would teach me a short sentence every week and review those before. After a year of learning, I can deliver to her in Russian, just ‘Hello, how are you?’ ‘I am doing good;’ ‘the weather is…;’ ‘here’s your meal;’ and ‘see you next week.’ It was very gratifying to build meaningful relationships with people. Another route I deliver for has many older Chinese immigrants. Since I speak Mandarin, many of the people on that route instantly connect with me. It was gratifying when they share?their questions about AAMOW with me. I feel like I was given a lot of trust. 

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers? 

RH: I would strongly recommend volunteering for AAMOW. The staff are great to work with. They really put in the effort to build connections with volunteers. I would especially encourage younger people and people who are new to Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor might look small on the map, but it is very diverse and complex. Also, I think it is a great way to learn about and knit ourselves more tightly into our local community.

Sabrina Chen, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

Why did you decide to volunteer at AAMOW?  

SC: When the pandemic first hit, every day I would see its impact on communities far and wide, and every day I would think, “What can I do to help?” One of the hardest hit communities belonged to those whose health kept them at home, and whose lives had been made that much more difficult due to the ignorant actions of others. AAMOW presented the perfect opportunity to not only correct for those actions with my own, but also improve the welfare of my local community during these hard times.  

What has been the most gratifying part of your experience?  

SC: For me, it’s the smiles I see when people open the door and realize I’ve brought their meals. Those smiles really solidified the fact that my efforts, no matter how small, were improving people’s lives. 

What would you tell others who are thinking about becoming volunteers?  

SC: If you have the time and the resources, you should absolutely join us! All it takes is two hours out of your day to make someone else’s. When you see that first smile, you’ll know it to be worth it 🙂

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