Indiana State University freshman Gina Emricko learned the importance of giving back from an early age. With the encouragement of her mother, she began volunteering at the Avonmore Center for Active Adults in high school. Along the way, she learned invaluable lessons from the senior citizens she served, and made long lasting relationships that have enriched her life. Gina is today’s Daily Point of Light Award recipient, and Points of Light talked with her about her experience as a volunteer at Avonmore.
Why did you decide to volunteer at Avonmore?
My mom worked there for a really long time as a nutritional aide. As I got older, she asked if I wanted to go to work with her. I exercised there and, then, got involved in the kitchen. This was when I was around 14 or 15 years old. I would help out in the kitchen to make and serve the meals. I went there every day in the summer.
What types of services or responsibilities do you have?
When I first started, I just served the meals. But, then my mom taught me how to make the food. I also would make the take-out meals, as well, where you have to portion everything to make sure things were perfect and we didn’t run out of food.
We usually showed up around 10 a.m., and we put the takeout meals together first and, then, take a break and do puzzles, exercise, or watch TV. Lunchtime is at 11:30 a.m. for the people who eat at Avonmore. We always arrived early to get everything prepared and said a prayer before we serve the food. On a regular day, we had two tables full to feed at lunch. If we had pizza or bingo that day, the room might be a bit fuller.
How often are you there?
When I was in high school, I was there every single week day during the summer. I would wake up at 9:30 a.m, go to the store and get breakfast and coffee, and get right to the center.
What have been some of your favorite activities as a volunteer?
The center does a lot of events like fashion shows and bingo. We also played cards every Wednesday — I would volunteer for everything. Everyone became friends. I actually have a special buddy there because he showed up every day. Every year, they take a trip to go to the Pirates game, and he was so happy that we got to go together. I’m close to him, and that’s made a big impact on me. He’s like a grandparent I’ve never had.
What impact do you feel you’ve been able to make?
We have a lot of fun together as a group. Everyone laughs when we play cards, and we celebrate birthdays. They got me a cake for my birthday. I’ve done Zumba with them, and we sometimes sing. I feel like my spending time with them makes them happy, and we all enjoy ourselves. I’m really young, and I feel like I learn a lot by being friends with older adults. It’s really cool. I get to learn about their generation, and they learn about mine.
Why is volunteering such an important thing to you?
I really love volunteering with older people because you learn so much from them and their experiences. I think that volunteering and giving back to the community is needed and is something we should do instead of socializing all the time. Every day, I’d rather be at the center than hanging out with my friends in the summer time. It makes people happy, and I really love making people happy. My mom raised me to try to help people, so that’s a big part of me. I like to get other people involved because I think it helps you be more responsible, and you learn from it, as well.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Gina? Visit All For Good to find local volunteer opportunties.