22 years and counting – One Volunteer Makes a Difference to Many

In 1992, Joyce Matchem decided to volunteer with Eastern Health at the Golden Heights Manor in Bonavista, NL. Little did she know that 22 years later, she would become a fixture in the daily lives of everyone at the manor.

“She’s such an integral part of our rhythm,” said Charlotte Ritman, recreation specialist/volunteer coordinator for Golden Heights Manor. “She represents the comfort of home for our residents.”

A Familiar Face

Joyce’s role as a volunteer has changed a bit over the past two decades. When she started, she volunteered two nights a week offering lunches to the long-term care residents.

She says: “In the past, we always used to take six or seven residents to a cabin in the summer for overnight trips, and we would cook them a jigs dinner.”

Today, Joyce mainly volunteers with Therapeutic Recreation and helps the department with leisure programming. While she chooses her own hours, she jokes: “I’m here ‘all day, every day, and that’s just the way I like it.”

But through all the years and all the changes, she’s always been up for the challenge – and her love of volunteering has never stopped.

During her daily routine, she can often be found playing cards with residents or planning for bingo.

(l-r): Volunteer Joyce Matchem and resident, Lewis Byrne, playing cards

(l-r): Volunteer Joyce Matchem and resident, Lewis Byrne, playing cards

And she always has their needs at heart. When arranging the seating plan, she makes sure they are in a position of optimal support. “That means if someone is hard of hearing, I make sure they’re next to the speaker, or if a family member is assisting the resident, I make sure they are able to sit together,” Joyce said.

Of course, everyone knows playing bingo means prizes! Although the Golden Heights Manor provides little gifts, Joyce goes above and beyond – buying little knick-knacks from garage sales or picking up biscuits just to add to the bingo prize pile.

“The residents love it,” said Charlotte Ritman, “when they see Joyce, they feel special and they know that they’re in good hands. Joyce always has the residents at the forefront of her mind because as she says ’they are my family.’”

Helping Patients and Making Friends

Joyce's volunteering site, Golden Heights Manor, Bonavista

Joyce’s volunteering site, Golden Heights Manor, Bonavista

In Joyce’s experience, volunteering doesn’t just help the residents, it means a lot to her too.

“When I come up here, I feel like I’m doing something and I feel a lot better,” she says. “When I’m home, I don’t really have a lot of energy – but that changes as soon as I see the residents.”

Recently, the Golden Heights Manor was closed to visitation because of influenza and Joyce wasn’t able to see the residents.

“I went nuts,” she said. “I miss coming and doing things with them, and I was concerned for my friends!”

Being able to spend time with the residents has helped Joyce, too. She said that even though it is a huge commitment both mentally and physically, Joyce recommends volunteering as much as possible, because it matters to the residents and that, in turn, helps the volunteer.

As Charlotte puts it: “The sociability is just as valuable to Joyce as it is to the residents!”

After 22 years at Golden Manor, Joyce has made a lot of great friendships.  But volunteering in long-term care can be difficult.

“You get so attached to them,” she says. “Losing a friend may hurt, but all the amazing experiences outweigh the bad. The family atmosphere is really important and gives an experience you aren’t likely to forget.

“And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” ■

Volunteer with Eastern Health!

For more information on Volunteering with Eastern Health visit: http://www.easternhealth.ca/give.

This story was written by Brandi Roberts, a public relations co-operative education student with Eastern Health’s Corporate Communications Department.

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