COVID has definitely had an impact on our volunteer programs at Cassia. Until recently, we haven’t been able to have volunteers. But that doesn’t mean our dedicated volunteers forgot about Cassia and the seniors we serve, in fact, it just meant we had to get creative with volunteers could continue to impact the quality of life for our residents.
One example is Brookside Assisted Living volunteer Pastor John Runyan. Pastor John, his wife Chris and his five daughters moved to Montevideo in 2001. In 2002, as the new minister in town, he was added to the ministerium’s rotating list of providing weekly services at Brookside Assisted Living one month a year. His daughters played piano so we would bring them with to help out (or to show off his girls says Pastor John!). In 2014 the ministerium decided to stop holding services at Brookside and yet Pastor John and his kindness decided to continue. He went from once a year holding services to weekly Bible studies because he had come to know the residents and “fell in love with them”. His wife Chris has even gotten involved by making special, seasonal treats for the residents including apple bars in the fall and Jell-O cake in the summer.
Staff and residents really enjoy Pastor John and his weekly visits. They say he is so kind and down to earth and always brightens the residents’ day. In return Pastor John says the residents are intelligent, smart thinkers who still like to be challenged. Their weekly Bible studies cover a book of the Bible chapter by chapter and allow the residents to delve deep into what they are studying.
When COVID hit and things shut down temporarily, Pastor John’s church purchased a phone calling system so a devotional and prayer requests could be sent to parishioners every day. Pastor John got permission to do the same for his Brookside residents. This practice is still continued, so every day at 9:57 AM, (right before the Price Is Right starts!) Brookside residents get a morning devotional phone call from Pastor John. He says, “This pandemic was really tough on them and we wanted them to know, every day, that we are thinking of them”.
Pastor John has continued to volunteer for many reasons, including because he has a great time with the residents (he says they all have a wonderful sense of humor) and his love of teaching the deeper truths of the Bible. He is touched by the bond of friendship created over the years. “I am most blessed when a resident passes away and the family asks me to have a part in the memorial service,” says Pastor John.
In addition to his volunteering, in his spare time, Pastor John enjoys playing pickleball and selling items on eBay and a local marketplace. He says he would “heartedly encourage others to get involved as a volunteer for two reasons. Number one, your own parents or grandparents may be in such a facility someday and you would want them to have such opportunities from outside the facility. And second, you, yourself may one day be in such a facility and will want that contact with the outside world. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Well said, Pastor John! Thank you Pastor John for your generosity, your kindness and your dedication to Brookside, Cassia and the residents for almost 20 years. Even in the face of adversity, you found a way to stay connected to the residents and to let them know they are valued. We are blessed to have you on the Cassia team.