From a 73-year-old woman who drive 93-year-olds to the doctor, to teenagers who put smiles on the faces of hospital patients, volunteers play an important role in the Johnson County community.
Johnson County is home to organizations and nonprofits that are run with the help of volunteers. Without that help, local organizations said they would struggle to provide the services the community needs.
We talked with some local volunteers about how and why they give their time.
Having a purpose
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More than 80 people line up at the doors of the Interchurch Food Pantry in Franklin daily to get food to feed their families.
When they come through the doors, they are greeted by friendly faces who help them go through the pantry that is set up like a grocery store, with each item costing points based on family size rather than actual money.
All of this is made possible by the 20 volunteers who give their time to the Interchurch Food Pantry daily.
Carol Phipps has volunteered for six years, and loves coming in each day she’s available.
She and the other volunteers start their day hours before families in need come in by unloading trucks, organizing the donated food and making sure everything is ready. When they open at 12 p.m., they help clients shop.
Although helping others is a large reason Phipps volunteers, she also gives her time because she enjoys the people she works with.
“They’re like an extended family who care for you and are always there for you,” Phipps said. “After a recent loss in the family, the volunteers all embraced me like they were my family.”
Gerri Piper started volunteering every Tuesday and Thursday after she met people from her church who volunteered and she asked how she could get involved.
“This place is a place that makes you feel like you’re supposed to be here,” Piper said. “It makes you feel like you have a purpose.”
Piper volunteers about 14 hours a week. Sometimes after a long day, she is exhausted, but she knows she helped people in need.
Help in any way possible
Nearly every day, 73-year-old Rose Hyde can be found delivering flowers to retirees, helping stock people’s cabinets with food or driving people to the doctor.
“If you need a ride, give me a holler because I can still drive,” Hyde said laughing.
Hyde is one of dozens of people who volunteer for Johnson County Senior Services, an organization that helps give senior citizens door-to-door transportation, food, medical equipment such as walkers and more.
Eryn Atwood has volunteered for more than two years and will do anything she can to help seniors.
“We don’t turn people away and so many people come together to make sure they can help people get what they need,” Atwood said.
Atwood touted the helpful nature of the Johnson County Senior Service drivers who pick up clients to take them to the doctor or grocery store. Drivers will get out of their vehicle to help people get out of their house and into the car. In some instances, drivers have saved lives when someone doesn’t come to the door and they look inside to see them lying on the ground and call 911 to get them help.
Johnson County Senior Services is successful because of volunteers, like Hyde and Atwood, who give their time to help those in need every day, said Kimberly Smith, executive director.
The agency will help whoever they can, no matter the ZIP code, Smith said. Some seniors aren’t able to afford necessities like adult underwear or food. Others can’t drive and don’t have reliable transportation to doctor appointments.
She wishes more people knew of the help seniors need.
“The needs are great and growing in our county,” Smith said. “People aren’t aware of what these people go through, but they really need help.”
Aside from driving people and delivering food, Hyde hand makes invitations for charity events and gardens vegetables each day with her husband. Hyde said once the vegetables are ready, they will be taken to the Johnson County Senior Services food pantry.
“As long as I have my health and energy, I will help in any way possible,” Hyde said. “And I hope when I’m in need someday, someone will help me.”
Greeting with a smile
Aiden Wiley, 13, has greeted patients at Johnson Memorial Hospital with a smiling face for more than 12 hours a week.
“I greeted people when they first enter, I made them feel comfortable and showed them they are welcome and there is nothing to worry about,” Wiley said.
Wiley is one of dozens of volunteers who give time to the Franklin hospital each week. Volunteers assist nurses by cleaning rooms and preparing rooms for surgery, work as gift shop clerks or help at the on-site day care.
However, Wiley is one of the youngest.
“I love all the older volunteers,” Wiley said. “They help me so much and teach me about life and have been there for me throughout everything.”
Wiley’s continued effort to make the patients feel welcome allowed him to win the President’s Volunteer Service Award last year. The award is given to volunteers who make a difference in their community. When Wiley heard about the award, he applied and was glad he did.
“I’m very thankful for receiving this award,” Wiley said. “It was a big honor.”
Wiley hopes to become a nurse when he is older. Because of this, he will soon volunteer with the nurses, rather than at the front door.
“All the volunteers have different jobs, but we are all special to the hospital, and we all work together to really make sure the patients feel comfortable during their stay,” Wiley said.
Here is a look at how to get involved with some local organizations:
Interchurch Food Pantry: The Interchurch Food Pantry is seeking drivers to pick up donated food. Volunteers experienced in driving large vehicles are preferred, but a commercial driver’s license is not required. To volunteer or learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-736-5090.
Johnson County Senior Services: Johnson County Senior Services is currently seeking volunteers to drive food deliveries, organize inventory in the office and work on fundraising and outreach. To volunteer, contact email@example.com.
Johnson Memorial Hospital: Volunteers are needed in different departments of the hospital, such as the front desk and the surgery department. To volunteer, apply online at johnsonmemorial.org/volunteer-with-us or call 317-346-3760.