When bad things happen, you can be a force for good

Neighbors helping neighbors. Friends helping friends. Even strangers helping strangers. We’ve heard these phrases in the last two months too many times in the aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes and tornadoes and shootings. The generosity of people helping each other in these catastrophic episodes has touched us all.

It’s not uncommon for people far removed from these events to reach out to local helping agencies. Community Caregivers would welcome you. Let me tell you exactly what’s involved to help you decide. In June I sat through an orientation session, which is required of all volunteers.

Linda Miller, Outreach and Education coordinator, had four new recruits. She began by asking them why they were considering volunteering for Community Caregivers.

One said she had the summer off and wanted to help. She was also nearing retirement and thought she would explore the organization for possible retirement activities.

A gentleman said he wanted to drive for a food pantry. We drive for two.

Another woman said, “I want to give back. CC helps me. I can help them.”

The last woman said she was new to the area and, since she had volunteered where she lived before, she wanted to continue here. Her daughter, she added, went online to see what volunteering opportunities were available in the Guilderland area. She chose CC.

After the introductions, Linda proceeded to give some history of the organization. She told the group what Caregivers does, the services it provides, the area we serve, how clients reach out, what volunteers do, and how our staff connects client and volunteer.

You fill out some papers. You give some references and indicate what services you’re interested in providing and when you’re available. It’s emphasized that you can change the day or days you volunteer. You can change the service or services you provide. You can say, “No, I can’t today.” We’ll call again.

Once you’ve had your orientation, and your references and Department of Motor Vehicles checks are made — this takes about two weeks — Mary Morrison, the client/volunteer coordinator, will call with an assignment.

Mary says a volunteer has an average of two to three assignments a month. “We don’t want to burn them out,” she says.

Once assignments are made, confirming emails with the client and appointment information are sent via email so the volunteer has all the relevant data. Lastly, the volunteer is asked to give a report to the office regarding time and mileage. Forms are available online. The staff also requests that volunteers inform Caregivers of any change they observe with the client.

Caregivers is very strict about 10-day notifications/requests from clients. The purpose is to insure the request can be filled. Mary emphasized that she tries to keep the location of client and volunteer near each other to keep mileage down.

Why do we always need new volunteers? Mary says there are many reasons for people to drop out. Their lives change. They move. They get sick. They go on vacation. Family issues come up.

Right now, we have 160 active volunteers and 200 active clients. Since 1996, we have had 1,200 to 1,300 volunteers in the database. Mary said, “That means all the volunteers who have ever ‘passed through the portals’.”

The more volunteers you have, the more leeway you have so you don’t have to overload anyone. That’s it. Think it over. If you have the time, others, your neighbors, would appreciate your help. Call the office at (518) 456-2898 to find out the next orientation date. You’ll make a great addition to the team.


Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors. Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.