New to her community, social by nature and looking to do some good, Jen Ferno started volunteering at a local retirement community. Then she met Fred, and her Thursdays have never been the same since.
When Jen Ferno, a contact service representative at National Life Group, relocated to Southern Vermont with her husband, she was looking to get involved in her new community. “I didn’t know a soul down here. I needed to do something,” she shared.
Given her background in health care and previous volunteer experience with seniors, she reached out to a local retirement community, and asked if she could volunteer there. They quickly accepted the offer.
That was over six months ago. Since then each Thursday she’s been visiting Fred, a resident at the center. “Fred is 85 years old and is very independent,” Jen shared. “I was really looking for ways to get him out of his room.”
And out they get. During their first conversation, Jen learned that Fred loves sports cars and they bonded over that shared interest. The next week, Jen returned with a surprise, “Guess what, Fred? I have a 2007 Corvette convertible. You want to ride in it? I have the keys, and the top’s down and it’s a beautiful day let’s go!”
Fred’s answer? “Yes, I do!”
“He was so proud, to ride in the car,” Jen remarked.
Since that first outing, their weekly visits have included, taking walks, going blueberry picking, doing errands, and even helping Fred with his computer. “I helped him make his computer more accessible, he emails me now,” Jen shared with a smile.
But when they are out and about in town, it’s Fred who’s teaching Jen a thing or two. Fred has introduced Jen to many people in town. “He’s very social. He knows everyone in town. Any time we go out, he stops and talks to everyone!”
When you live in the same town for 35 years, that tends to happen.
Jen continues to visit Fred as much as her schedule allows, putting National Life’s company provided volunteer time to good use. “I look forward to Thursdays so much because I know I am going to see Fred. It’s the highlight of my week. He thanks me all the time,” Jen commented. Spending a couple of hours of your time can truly mean the world to someone. “It’s the little things. It makes you realize there is so much more out there,” Jen shared.
Little did Jen know she’d be looking forward to her afternoon visits as much as her new friend, Fred. “It is such a rewarding time; it makes me feel good knowing the little thing I helped him with meant the world to him.”
What else have Thursdays with Fred taught her? Jen shared, “You need to put yourself out there to make a connection. It’s been a gift to get to know the community through someone else.”
Jen’s advice for others looking to volunteer, “Definitely get out to your community. Help out the older people. A lot of people don’t realize seniors are so active and want to do things. Their own families may be far away, or they may have their own family to take care of. Seniors are just so appreciative of the little things that you do.”
It’s never too late to make new friends. Jen’s experience shows that small gestures of sharing your time truly can brighten someone’s day and more importantly, that friendships are ageless.