By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
Katie Byrne feels a great sense of satisfaction from her work as a volunteer at Loretto, a provider of eldercare services in Syracuse. Byrne has volunteered at Loretto for the last 30 years and served as treasurer of the Loretto Guild, a group of over 200 volunteers, for the last 17 years. The Guild provides or funds services, amenities, programs and purchases which benefit Loretto residents’ quality of life.
“I enjoy helping people,” said Byrne. “Some of these people have no one else. If you can make their life a little happier, then it’s all worth it.”
Byrne said that when she stops to smile or to say hello to the residents, the gesture usually has a very positive effect on them. “They love it and I enjoy conversing with them.”
In addition to serving as treasurer of the Guild, Byrne has served as chairperson and as a committee member for the numerous events that the Guild sponsors for the residents throughout the year. In addition to sponsoring ice cream socials at Loretto’s housing sites, the Guild has hosted events such as a Teddy Bear party, a Valentine’s Day party and a Halloween party. They have also purchased chair lifts and wheelchairs and have donated funds for purchasing recreational supplies and Christmas gifts.
Brenda McCutcheon, corporate director of elder life and spirituality at Loretto, explained how the support that the volunteers provide has a powerful impact on the residents’ well being. “The service that they provide is invaluable,” said McCutcheon. “They create a sense of community and the residents are receivers of new friendships and compassion.”
There are 125 active volunteers at Loretto. In addition, seasonal groups of volunteers help throughout the year. A wide range of volunteer opportunities are available at Loretto’s many sites: Cunningham Skilled Nursing Facility, Loretto Oswego, Nottingham Skilled Nursing Facility, Daybreak Adult Medical Day Program, the community residences of Sedgwick Heights and Bernadine Apartments and the housing sites of Buckley Landing, Heritage and Nottingham.
Volunteers escort residents to outings such as the New York State Fair and assist them when they participate in gardening and arts and crafts. They also transport residents to church services, volunteer in pastoral care and help out in the Cunningham gift shop. “We couldn’t do some of the outings without them,” said McCutcheon. She said that a group of 45 volunteers assists the residents on the trip to the State Fair every year.
The volunteer groups include students, church groups, the Boy Scouts and spiritual groups, among others.
Every November, Tully Middle School’s seventh grade students and their teachers make apple pies with the residents.
Dorothy Dunham, a volunteer, has greatly enhanced the life of Dorothy Jones, a resident of Loretto Health and Rehabilitation. A friendship developed between Jones and Dunham 10 years ago when Dunham began taking residents to the State Fair. The two women enjoy playing Bingo and doing needlepoint together. Jones said, “I look forward to Saturdays when Dorothy comes. She gives so much of herself. She’s thoughtful and caring and I’m so happy to have her in my life.”
Dunham helps out in many ways. She assists the residents while doing crafts, serving as a caller at Bingo, helping with transportation, runs recreation programs and assisting the residents during outings. “She is a delight,” said McCutcheon. “I wish I had 500 more of her.”
Dunham said she enjoys helping people, especially the elderly. “You never know what they are going to say,” she said. “I also enjoy their stories.”
To learn more about volunteering at Loretto, call Nina LaFontaine at (315) 413-3272.