Stella Avret’s mother was a resident at the Assisted Living Cottage of Magnolia Manor, a retirement community on St. Simons Island, Georgia. After her mother passed away, the assistant director suggested she come back and volunteer. The retired kindergarten teacher then decided that volunteering to answer phones at the retirement community would be a great way to honor the memory of her late mother.
When she realized the people at the Bingo table were having a lot more fun, she asked for a reassignment. She started out by serving coffee and juice, and before long she was calling the Bingo game.
She is still running the Bingo table 17 years later and spends every Wednesday morning getting to know the residents personally. She also supplies the candy treats and prizes, even making sure there are sugar-free candy options available for certain residents, and sends out cards to former residents and volunteers.
We spoke with Stella to learn about what inspired her to start volunteering and why she thinks it is important for others to give back to the community.
What inspired you to volunteer?
I had retired in 1998 from teaching and hadn’t done much volunteer work other than at my church or at my kids’ school. I had spent a lot of time at Magnolia Manor when my mother was there. After she passed away, the assistant director told me, “Don’t be a stranger,” and I decided it would be a good place to put my energy.
Describe your volunteer role with Assisted Living Cottage of Magnolia Manor.
Every Wednesday, I set up Bingo and call the game. I help assist the residents who may have visual or hearing problems play. I get to know the residents on a personal level. I also send weekly greeting cards to the residents and volunteers who have left Magnolia Manor; I want them to know we still remember them.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I believe in volunteerism and think it is very important for people to give back to their community. I think people should go into volunteering with the same commitment as a paying job. I commit myself to being at Bingo every Wednesday, unless I am out of town or ill. I always give advanced notice if I am going to be out and make sure to get the candy and prizes to Magnolia Manor in my absence.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my volunteer work at Magnolia Manor is getting to know the residents. I enjoy the people and getting to know their stories and background. It has been a pleasure to see people who once preferred to isolate themselves now looking forward to being with their friends at Bingo. These people hold a special place in my heart.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
The more you give, the more you receive. And, I have learned as a volunteer, I am the one on the receiving end. Volunteers receive a lot by giving.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
Magnolia Manor has a bulletin board full of activities for the residents. There is always a lot going on, including taking the residents on field trips such as shopping.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I want people to sign up to be a volunteer. There is such a need for volunteers out there in the community. Volunteering is rewarding.
What is your favorite memory from volunteering at Magnolia Manor?
Volunteering every day at Magnolia Manor is a new favorite memory.
Do you want to make a difference like Stella? Check out All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.