On October 1, 2013, we opened our doors and began creating this experience called “the Village.” Previous to that day, I had read a lot about the village movement, had multiple conversations with people in other villages, had attended one national conference, and had volunteered for Dupont Circle Village for a year and a half. I had knowledge and experience, but what I didn’t know was how this Village would take its own unique shape.
In particular, I wondered about how our members would use our volunteer services. We had recruited, vetted and trained a great group of volunteers. They were at the ready. Then we waited for the first requests to come from our members.
What has happened in the first six months has been remarkable.
When we started, there were members who had previously scheduled operations for late autumn and who were anticipating needing volunteer services afterwards. Then there were others who experienced an unanticipated fall or illness, who never expected to use volunteer services, but were very grateful that the services were there for them when needed. Then came the stereo speakers that wouldn’t work; the television that went out; new iPads were bought; a baby bouncer needed assembly; a new printer needed installation.
Over the first six months of operation, 173 requests have been received and filled by our volunteers. This has amounted to 254 hours of service. 32 of our standard members have made these requests – approximately 40% of those eligible to receive services.
This is a high percentage, especially over the first six months of a village’s operations. Thirty-three volunteers have provided these direct services to members, while many other volunteers have been “behind the scenes,” working on committees, on administrative tasks, and many others on our programs and events.
Our volunteers have done a great job in responding to members’ needs. Over and over again I hear the gratitude of our members’ to those who have helped them. I am grateful and proud of our corps of volunteers.
Here is a breakdown of the services that have been provided from October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014:
- Transportation — 80 requests, 124.5 hours
Volunteer drivers provide one-way or round-trip transportation for members and may assist them to and from the front door and carry groceries and packages as needed.
- Convenience Services — 47 requests, 72.5 hours
Volunteers assist in escorting for a medical appointments, mailing packages, running errands, picking up prescriptions, checking on homes while members are away, picking up mail and newspapers, providing pet care.
- Tech Assistance — 19 requests, 28.5 hours
Volunteers can help explain technology to members, advise them on equipment purchases and upgrades, tutor them in hardware and software use and provide specialized assistance such as: setting up a new computer, printer, or home wireless network; troubleshooting a computer; selecting and using a smartphone.
- Friendly Visits and Contact Calls — 20 requests, 19.5 hours
Volunteers may call or visit members at a regularly scheduled time to check on their well-being, just chat or read to those with impaired vision.
- In-Home Assistance — 6 requests, 7.5 hours
Volunteers help with household tasks such as: cleaning out closets and cabinets; changing light bulbs; hanging pictures and curtains; moving furniture; making simple repairs; raking, sweeping or shoveling walkways; and performing small gardening tasks.
- Problem Solving — 1 request, 2 hours
Some volunteers have specialized background to solve problems, such as organizing files and paperwork, dealing with collections, or more detailed such as identifying community or governmental resources to address specific needs.
As you can see, about 50% of our volunteer services have been in providing transportation services. This has been almost totally driving members to medical appointments, with some driving to Village programs and events. While the highest percentage of services provided by villages across the nation is for transportation, this has been even more the case for FBWE Village. It is hard to tell if this is going to be the norm for the Village or if this high volume for transportation is an outlier.
We are currently looking to add to our roster of vetted volunteer drivers in order to continue to meet the needs of our members. If you are able to help even once a month with driving someone to an appointment, please consider becoming a volunteer. I send out all member requests and you, as a volunteer, only respond to those requests you wish to fulfill.
All volunteers go through a background check and training. Volunteering is meant to be a rewarding experience for the volunteer. And from the testimony of our volunteers, it is!
Consider this for yourself or, if you know someone in the neighborhood who might be a good driver for the Village, ask them. Anyone interested in this should contact us.