Volunteering for residents
Different paths taken but all wind up helping at Homestead
By Mary Matsumoto
Audry Heus
Elaine Kolb
Kathy Rabe

What do mail, bingo and recipes have in common?

Nothing—unless you are talking about the people who freely volunteer their time and energy at Homestead Care Center in New Holstein to help brighten the lives of its residents. Volunteers come in all ages and backgrounds, bringing with them a variety of skills. The one thing they have in common, however, is their love of people.

Take Elaine Kolb, for instance. Since her husband died in 1989, when she was 51 years old, Elaine had had to busy herself with making a living, taking jobs that ranged from newspaper delivery to babysitting, working at a mink ranch to filling various positions at the American Club in Kohler. At age 70, on what was to be her last day of work there before retirement, she slipped in the break room and broke her femur. After a hospital stay, she ended up at the Homestead herself to recuperate.

On the brink of retirement, as she was, Elaine wondered about her future. She couldn’t see herself sitting home with nothing meaningful to occupy herself, day in and day out. She needed structure in her life.

Activity assistant Sandy Freund suggested Elaine join the group of volunteers at the Homestead, and Elaine agreed.

Audry Heus, on the other hand, has been volunteering for 32 years. She was introduced to the idea by a membership drive many years ago. In those days, neighbors passed an envelope from house to house up the street. Besides providing a way to contribute monetarily, the envelope contained information for those who wanted to donate time. Potential volunteers could choose what they’d like to do from a list of activities. So, living only two or three blocks from the Homestead, Audry decided to go for it.

From CNA to volunteer

And then there’s Kathy Rabe. She had been a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the Homestead for 30 years. When her health forced her to retire, she asked Marlene Schneider, who is in charge of activities, if she could volunteer. Since then, she conducts weekly, hour-long sessions called “What’s Cookin’,” alternating every other week with “Remember When.”

Kathy was nervous at first, but she remembered the informal conversations she had had as a CNA while bathing residents or doing their hair. They’d talk about things like wringer washers, making soap, cooking with soup bones or making homemade noodles. Even though she was younger than the residents she worked with, she had grown up the second oldest of 14 children on a farm where the family performed many of these activities. The experience supplies Kathy with rich material to share with her audience at the Homestead.

In her What’s Cookin’ session, Kathy brings recipes that are sentimental to the group. And while they don’t actually prepare the food, it gives them a springboard for sharing their own memories or thinking about what changes they would personally make to the recipe.

When Kathy brought in some green tomato bars, she asked if anyone could tell her what they were. At first the group was baffled, but when someone guessed the secret because of their subtle green color, the conversation turned to what they used to do with green tomatoes.

For Remember When, Kathy pores through magazines ahead of time, picking out subjects she thinks her audience will enjoy. She knows that all they need is a trigger before they branch off to other topics, related or not.

“Someone brings up another subject, or one of the staff walks by and says something, and we go off in another direction,” Kathy says.

Their eyes and ears

Elaine helps out on Wednesday nights when residents play board games. Some have vision or hearing limitations, so Elaine becomes their eyes and ears.

Of the three, Audry has had the most experience volunteering, so she remem-

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