Volunteer Spotlight: Amy Coburn

For ECS volunteer Amy Coburn, being able to spend time with senior citizens has a special meaning.

A year ago, Amy Coburn decided to “step outside” of herself and register with volunteermatch.org. The online questionnaire helped her define what type of experience she was seeking.

Amy had volunteered previously in a soup kitchen, an animal shelter and continues to assist in animal rescue. So the idea of giving her time wasn’t a new one.

Looking back, she’s not surprised that she was matched with Episcopal Community Services’ Dolphin Companions program.

The Dolphin Companions program has a singular goal: to eliminate the loneliness of isolated seniors. The Dolphins subscribe to a one-to-one philosophy. The name Dolphin was chosen because they are known to travel in pairs. Each volunteer is matched with a nursing home resident, becoming a special friend to that person, offering company and companionship during this chapter in their life. It is a perfect fit for Amy, who personally enjoys relating with others on life’s journey.

Amy makes weekly companion visits to an older woman who isolates in her room by choice, partly due to mobility issues associated with a physical disability.

“She is very intelligent, witty and a great conversationalist,” Amy said. “I try to bring the outside world in for her through our discussions and activities. For example, we talk about current events, we recently wrote a letter to a designated student pen pal program, and we decorated her small room for different holidays in order to bring in some much-needed color and cheer. We have developed an amazing connection over the past year as we’ve gotten to know each other.”

The client has many siblings, children, and grandchildren. It’s a large support network. But what she shares with Amy is different. What she shares with Amy is friendship.

Amy has always empathized with our aging population, but she truly found her direction while helping her own mother “age gracefully” before passing away in 2013.

“My mother struggled through aging issues,” she said. “I saw the effects of loneliness (on her) firsthand. People started to drop out of her life.”

Amy reminisced about the “joy and reward” she saw when she spent time with her Mom. Small gestures like reading together, doing puzzles or arts and crafts, even taking a little walk, delivered happiness.

It’s those gestures that inspire Amy in her volunteer work as a Dolphin. Through the Dolphin Companions program, she has been able to give back what she learned through her mother’s experience.

“We help ourselves by helping others,” she said. “Volunteering is a wonderful way to meet like-minded people. It has enhanced my life greatly and I’m a better person because of it. I believe we all need a little kindness, now more than ever. Volunteering is the perfect way to contribute while experiencing this. I am very grateful for the Dolphin Companion program and the support of my supervisor, Marilyn Knox.”

The quote on the Dolphin Companions brochure caught her eye when she first saw it and it continues to resonate with Amy, “We honor the inherent worth of every human being.”