Jennifer Gustafson, NWC Community Engagement Manager
Sun Lakes resident Mary Ernst was recently honored by Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke for her service to local seniors as a volunteer with Neighbors Who Care. Mayor Hartke personally selected Mary for the Mayor’s Choice Award as part of the City’s annual Volunteer Recognition Program.
Mary was presented with the award in a surprise visit from Victor Hardy, Executive Director of For Our City Chandler, an organization that works in conjunction with the City of Chandler to serve our community through collaboration and compassion.
Mary has been volunteering with Sun Lakes-based Neighbors Who Care since 2017. She offers her services as a volunteer driver several times a month and has given nearly 400 hours of her time. Mary is always eager to help our clients who are predominantly homebound seniors in Sun Lakes/South Chandler. These clients often have no one else nearby to help them, so volunteers like Mary are essential to helping them stay in their own homes for as long as feasibly possible.
Of the many services that volunteers provide, Mary says she prefers taking on long-distance driving assignments, because she knows that not every volunteer is able to drive to locations like Downtown Phoenix or the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. She adds that she also enjoys the time she gets to spend with Neighbors Who Care clients and helping to bring some joy to their lives.
One such client—a 95-year-old Chandler resident—said she was feeling anxious about an upcoming medical appointment. “I was antsy,” says this client. “But my funky mood was turned around by Mary when she was taking me to see the doctor. She was extremely friendly and positive. She listened to me and helped me feel so much better about my situation. And it turns out that she was right … I had nothing to worry about!”
Neighbors Who Care’s administrative director Verna Mahnke says that Mary is very genuine in her desire to volunteer. “You can tell that Mary enjoys visiting with clients during their drives together. She just loves being with people!”
On behalf of all of us at Neighbors Who Care, we would like to thank Mary Ernst for her dedication and for being a shining light in our community. We would also like to thank our friends at the City of Chandler, including Mayor Hartke and Councilmember Christine Ellis, for continuing to support our mission to serve seniors in our area.
If you are interested in volunteering with Neighbors Who Care, please let us know. Volunteers are needed now more than ever as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate any time you can give, whether it’s once a week or once a month. We work around your schedule, and there are a variety of services to choose from, all of which can be done with safety in mind.
Becoming a Neighbors Who Care Client: How To
One can never tell when life will take a twisty turn that shifts an ordinary, normal life off-kilter. It could be the loss of a partner, an unexpected need for surgery, or a health concern that prevents driving, to name a few. Let’s face it, life happens, and we never really know when. Or you may know someone in this position. Many of our clients are referred to use from the community, service providers, or neighbors.
One of these shifts can instantly cause alarm when questions arise like:
Who will help me with groceries when I can’t drive?
How can I get to physical therapy when I cannot yet drive after surgery?
I have a physician appointment, and I can’t leave my housebound spouse alone.
These panicked thoughts can weigh heavily on the mind of a single senior citizen living in the Sun Lakes area. Despite having been delivering free services to seniors in the Sun Lakes area for 25 years, some still do not understand what we do or how we can help. Here is a simple, step-by-step outline of how to apply.
If you find you need help with meals, transportation, or respite, here’s how to find Neighbors Who Care help:
1. Contact Neighbors Who Care at our Sun Lakes offices by calling 480-895-7134.
2. One of our friendly volunteers will collect some initial information about you to make certain you live within our service area (Val Vista to Price Roads, east to west, and Queen Creek and Hunt Highway roads, north to south).
3. When location has been confirmed, the volunteer will share some additional information about our volunteer services and complete an intake form on you and your situation.
4. Your completed intake form will be referred to Neighbors Who Care’s care manager Bonnie Kosar for a review.
5. Bonnie will review the form, and if all looks correct, she will set up a home visit for an assessment.
6. A licensed social worker, Bonnie will review your needs and will approve you for the appropriate services we can deliver.
7. You are asked to provide a lead time of at least three days so volunteers may be identified and scheduled for your approved needs.
8. You are asked to call in during business hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to register your need. When a volunteer is scheduled, he or she will reach out by phone to confirm and discuss the event.
9. And that’s our process! If your health or situation changes, we ask that you call and speak with Bonnie, your care manager, to share them so that we may document them to best serve your ongoing needs.