According to the CDC every year more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke1.
Everyone is affected differently, and a good number of stroke survivors see improvement even years after the event. Recovery can involve several aspects of life including social, physical, and emotional.
On March 12, 2019, a panel of Stroke Support Association (SSA) support group members shared their experiences in volunteering to highlight the benefits of service as a part of life after stroke.
The four stroke survivor and two caregiver panelists volunteer with a variety of organizations, including SSA.
Mary, Susie, and Tim, all stroke survivors, volunteer in Stroke Support Associations’ Hospital Visitor Program. Through this program, trained volunteers go to local hospitals to visit patients who have recently had a stroke. Tim is in charge of training new Hospital Visitor volunteers and scheduling.
Mary is also a member of the SSA Board of Directors.
Susie volunteers at Aquarium of the Pacific, greeting visitors at the front entrance, distributing brochures, and recommending exhibits. She also volunteers at the Speech and Language Development Center in Buena Park.
As a resident of Cal Heights, Tim volunteers for his neighborhood association, serving as treasurer and keeping the streets and alleys clean.
Shirley, also a stroke survivor, has volunteered at Seal Beach Animal Care Center for the past twenty years, starting before she had her stroke.
Diana, a caregiver, is secretary of SSA’s Board of Directors and also helps set up the weekly support groups and does the intake for new members. Beyond SSA, Diana and her husband (who had a stroke in 2012) volunteer for Food Finders by picking up food from a Grocery Outlet market and delivering it to Hawaiian Gardens Food Bank. Diana also volunteers for SPCLA, working with the animals, training new volunteers, and teaching classes on animal care.
Sylvia, a caregiver, has been singing in choirs for years, which itself is a form of volunteering. She has also helped with costumes for the youth drama club at California Heights United Methodist Church for a few years and is now the Costume Coordinator for The Sound of Music, a production scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend.
Why They Volunteer
Each of the volunteers had their own reasons for choosing where to volunteer. For instance, Mary wanted to visit patients new to stroke to share her own experience with stroke and to offer hope. “I want to show them that there is life after stroke,” she said.
Diana first started attending SSA’s Caregiver Support Group after her husband had a stroke. Eventually, she began to volunteer by setting up for groups each week and welcoming visitors. Then she became a member of the board, currently serving as secretary. Volunteering for SSA was an evolving experience. “It is a way of giving back for what I received,” she said.
Susie said, “I truly enjoy volunteering. I am an ex-teacher, and I like to share with others. I like people.” In her role of visiting new stroke patients, she says, “I love to hear their stories.” She gives hope by sharing hers.
In her work with animals, Shirley reports, “It’s always a good feeling when you go in and the animals (that were there the last time) are no longer there because they’ve been adopted.
Tim volunteers because he likes helping other people.
Sylvia says, “I’m passionate about all the performing arts — music, dance, and theater. I have always enjoyed expressing myself that way and wouldn’t be who I am today without music. I volunteer so that children can enjoy expressing themselves with music.”
What are the Benefits of Volunteering
Each of the panelists believe that their life has been enriched by volunteering. Volunteering makes them feel good. Diana believes that volunteering gets her out of her own head and helps her keep the proper perspective. Tim said, “I couldn’t talk after my stroke. The Hospital Visitors Program helped me to talk to people in the hospital who had had a stroke. I could relate to them, and they could relate to me.”
When it comes to volunteering, “Find something you really enjoy doing,” said Mary. And Shirley reminded us, “Volunteering really gives you back more than you give; it can help you feel that life is almost normal again.”
1Stroke. (2022, March 22). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm
Content source: Hardiman, E. (Support Group Administrator). (2019). Stroke Support Association.
Categorized in: SSA News