UTICA — The art of volunteering seems to be a much unappreciated yet very important element in today’s society. For Anna Mae Rhoads of Utica, volunteering has become a lifestyle and something she wouldn’t give up. This April will mark the 10th year of volunteering for Rhoads at Shepherd Hill in Newark.
“Volunteering is important, but I’m just one of the many people,” said Rhoads in referring to the numerous volunteers at Shepherd Hill. This division of Licking Memorial Health Systems deals with patients being treated for drug, alcohol and other addictions. Treatment programs at Shepherd Hill are built around four distinct goals: education, self-diagnosis, self-responsibility and self-treatment. The volunteers at Shepherd Hill play a vital role in achieving these goals.
When making the decision to be a volunteer, Rhoads said, “I saw the need. I just want to do whatever needs to be done.”
Work sessions for Rhoads begin in the early morning when patients arrive at Shepherd Hill for counseling and therapy. Those patients who have children bring them along, and Rhoads is one of the volunteers who keep the children occupied.
“It works very well. We’ve had some lovely times,” said Rhoads. “We gather snacks for them. We keep toys and coloring books handy. And for the older kids, there are computers for them to use.”
And it really doesn’t seem like work to her. “I just enjoy doing it,” said Rhoads. “It’s something I can enjoy, and I’m good at it.”
Even though her volunteering can be rewarding in itself, there have also been some awards come her way. President George W. Bush sent a Presidential Citation for achieving the President’s Volunteer Service Award to Rhoads in 2008, commending her on her years of volunteer service. A special certificate and pin accompanied the letter. She also received a certificate of commendation from State Rep. Jay Hottinger.
“She is a wonderful volunteer. She’s very caring,” said Carol Barnes, director of volunteer services at Licking Memorial Health Systems. Barnes added that Rhoads also serves as a representative on the volunteer board for Shepherd Hill.
“They’re so much fun,” said Rhoads about the children she watches over. She laughed while telling the story of watching the children gathering up acorns while competing with squirrels, and once even a groundhog.
And while there is no monetary compensation for her volunteer work, there is some gratitude extended as certificates for breakfast and lunch are provided for the volunteers. “It’s nice they do this,” said Rhoads.
Doing a good job, whether it be paid or by volunteering, is indicative of one’s character. And it’s obvious that Rhoads cares for children, as she also couldn’t keep from bragging about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “She’s very dedicated to what she does. She spends a lot of time with the children,” said Barnes.
“I have no idea,” said Rhoads when asked how long she plans to continue serving as a volunteer. “I love doing it. I’m good with people, usually.”