Volunteers make a difference: Donna & Gary Gomes

Hillcrest Healthcare welcomes individuals, families and groups to volunteer at our three communities. Our volunteers are wonderful and provide so much encouragement and joy to our residents. We appreciate their dedication to helping others.

Donna and Gary Gomes volunteer at Beverly Park Place serving in a variety of ways. They’ve had family members in the past who were residents or worked there, but what prompted them to start volunteering in earnest was stories during the pandemic when nursing homes could not accept visitors and residents were hit so hard.

The two have volunteered over the years with different organizations, including helping withdrawn dogs at Young-Williams Animal Center and working with children with medical needs. As soon as restrictions were loosened to allow visitors, they started their visits at Beverly Park.

Sometimes, they go room to room, asking Activities Director Susan Smith to send them where they’re needed most – usually to residents who do not have a lot of visitors. Donna sometimes brings books to share, and sometimes she just sits and talks. “That’s what they may need the most. If they can’t talk, I just rub their hand and be with them.”

Donna also has a therapy dog named Britta. She’s a toy goldendoodle. Donna is working with her to socialize and desensitize Britta in public and recently started doing visits to Beverly Park. “Some want her in their lap! They talk a lot to me about their life and their own pets and we get to bring them a little happiness.”

Donna noticed while helping at several of the community events that men don’t participate as much in those activities. Enter Gary. “He has another role – he does card and board games with the men. Susan wanted to get the men out and mingling, and Gary loves games and now goes two nights a week after dinner.”

Why volunteering is important

“So many seniors are isolated and if we don’t reach out, they have no way to reach out to us. They become bored and sad and even depressed. It’s so important to connect with them,” Gary said.

The couple also served as Santa and Mrs. Claus during the Christmas holiday and Gary shares, “I was delighted at all of the nice gifts that churches and communities donated to the residents. They had a great Christmas – the community came through for them. We have time, so sharing that is the least we can do.”

“If you’re healthy and looking for a place to make a HUGE impact, you can make someone’s day – even their week – by just giving 15 minutes of your day,” Gary says. Donna continues, “Yes, if you can be any part of helping them, it’s huge. Reaching out can help heal others from the inside out and help heal yourself as well.”

Donna plans to keep working with Britta and making her usual rounds while Gary focuses on engaging the men during game nights, noting that “sometimes I’m out until midnight!”

We cherish the time, effort, energy and resources that our volunteers pour into the residents at our three Knoxville communities. Every person who shows up and every minute they spend makes an impact.

If you have a talent to share or time to serve, we encourage you to fill out our volunteer form. Volunteers are welcome to assist with activities such as game nights and festivals; share a talent such as magic or music; lead community crafts; do building and grounds maintenance such as painting, weeding or planting; or even help with administration or events with our non-profit partner, Hillcrest Healthcare Foundation. We’ll find a spot for individuals or groups, so reach out today. Follow us on Facebook to keep up with all that’s going on in our three communities.