A great deal of recent news coverage has focused on some very big lottery jackpots… and the dreams and wishes of the millions who bought a ticket. What would they do if they hit the big jackpot? Given the odds, most of us will never really know how we would spend all that money, but the fantasy is fun.

For some members of the community, the joy that comes from giving to others means just as much as that pot at the end of the rainbow — and is far easier to achieve. Volunteering, especially at a nursing home or assisted living facility, brings its own distinct rewards…like the satisfaction of knowing that someone had a better day because you were there…that lunch was a little more interesting when a companion visited…or that sharing a few hours to talk about the upcoming baseball season, the next great movie, or even the weather (who doesn’t have something to say about the weather these days?) made someone smile. Those hours bring rewards that are not measurable in simple terms.

When asked, most volunteers will tell you that they get more out of the experience than they give. Ask a nursing home resident, a nurse or a family member “Who gets the most out of a volunteer visit?” and the answer will unanimously be “I do!” For the resident, the one-on-one attention a volunteer gives can be just the thing needed to brighten the day; for the nurse, it’s that extra hand that will help to soothe her resident a help keep him/her happy for a time; and for the family, it’s the peace of mind knowing that someone is spending time with their loved one when they cannot.

Whether volunteers visit with residents, help out on a nursing unit, play games with day care program participants, or even help in a facility’s gift shop, their presence there is priceless. Those of us who are fortunate enough to enjoy good health and daily interactions with friends and family have a lot to appreciate…and even though they may not be on the official list of lottery winners, volunteers will find they have hit the jackpot. So, remember the promise you made to yourself to get in shape this year? Develop your upper body strength by transporting wheelchair-bound residents to and from programs and therapies. Want to be more committed to something? Lend a hand with Friday morning Mahjong. Can’t stop shopping? Help residents choose just the right nail color or lipstick. If you can share a few hours each week, enjoy people, and are looking for a fulfilling, meaningful and deeply appreciated experience, volunteering may be just the ticket for you!

It’s a new year…make it a new you, too.

For information on volunteering at a nursing home in Long Island, Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, visit www.gurwin.org/about/volunteer-opportunities/.

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