April 30, 2022 | April is National Volunteer Month, and before it ends, the Village Chicago would like to thank the dozens of volunteers who contribute everyday to its purpose and goals.
“As a network of members, we’re driven by four guiding principles, all of which point to the centrality of volunteerism to our mission,” says Darcy Evon, CEO of the Village. The four principles are:
- Recognize and engage each person based on their unique strengths.
- Build a collaborative community where all can share their life experience.
- Never forget that everyone has something to teach and something to learn.
- Provide a sense of belonging through community.
“Most of our volunteers are members helping members, but we also engage members in serving those in the broader community,” says Darcy. “Furthermore, the Village engages many non-members who want to participate in the Village community.”
Aditi Rangarajan is a young adult living in Lincoln Park who has volunteered with The Village Chicago for two and a half years. Before moving to the neighborhood, she was a volunteer for the Chicago Hyde Park Village.
“I help with any and all tech devices,” says Aditi. “I coach members who need support in using basic functions of their TVs, phones, computers, and cameras. I also help them with more complex functions that will make their lives easier, such as the use of online grocery and ride services. I recently taught someone how to use the CTA app so she could time her rides, and didn’t need to stand out in the cold waiting for a bus to arrive!”
Sometimes the task of helping with tech turns to long, friendly conversations. She recently spent five hours visiting with a Village member who lives alone. “I love spending time with the members and learning from them,” says Aditi, who is a data analyst at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “I’ve grown up with tech and am able to use it with ease, but for some people it’s difficult because it’s new or constantly changing. I would hope someone would do something like that for me if I needed help,” she says.
Dick Sullivan, a retiree and Village member, volunteers with the Village in several ways: as the treasurer of the board, as a member of the Fund Development Committee, as a co-founder and member of the Racism Action Initiative, as a member of the Men’s Group, and as a driver offering rides to other members.
Through the Racism Action Initiative and Men’s Group, Dick has led efforts to engage members in volunteering in projects like delivering holiday presents and volunteering in local food pantries.
He was introduced to the Village in 2015 by Rick Stuckey, his partner at Accenture, where he worked for many years as a management consultant. Dick was attracted to the idea of the Village as a network of “seniors helping seniors. It’s the people that keep me in and the camaraderie that keeps me going,” he says.
Referring to his efforts to engage members as volunteers in the broader community, he says, “I especially enjoy working with others to achieve value for people we’ve never known. I like doing stuff rather than just talking about it or writing a check. It’s good to move the ball forward.”
Bob and Dorothy Hernquist have been Village members and volunteers since The Village Chicago was founded in 2009. They are both retired. Bob has given innumerable rides to other members, often with the help of Dorothy who will walk the member to her doctor’s office, for example, once Bob drops her off.
“We’ll take people wherever they need to go. About 80 percent of the trips are medically related,” says Bob. “The other 20 percent are usually shopping trips. Occasionally I’ll help a member with something that needs to be done around the house such as changing a light bulb.”
“Our major motivation for joining and volunteering for the Village is to meet other people in the community,” he continues. “Generally, people meet others through work, but when you’re retired, it helps to join organizations. What we do as volunteers is no great sacrifice—we get a lot out of meeting new people in the process.”
Last year, volunteers filled 689 out of 1,551 member service requests of the Village. A little over 200 of the requests were for rides, which were given by 10 volunteers. If you would like to learn more about a variety of volunteer opportunities at the Village, Darcy recommends that you visit the Village website or contact Niki Fox, Director of Health, Wellness & Member Services.
“We are profoundly grateful to the many volunteers who fuel our mission,” says Niki. “They’re essential to the kind of community we’re building through The Village Chicago.”