More MS news articles for October 2000

Volunteers give disabled everyday aid

Help with shopping, tasks makes difference

Monday, October 16, 2000

Julie R. Bailey
Dispatch Staff Reporter

Counting down the shopping days until Christmas has Gail Baldwin on pins and needles.

The South Side resident isn't worried about finding the hottest handyman gadget for her husband, James.

What has her anxious is whether she will be matched with someone from Goodwill Columbus' Volunteers Express program in time to join the Christmas-shopping frenzy.

In 1981, Mrs. Baldwin lost her sight because of complications from diabetes, leaving her husband to shoulder a lot of the household responsibilities.

His hectic work schedule means that Mrs. Baldwin has to squeeze doctors' appointments and shopping into small periods of time.

"I hate having to always ask my husband or another relative to go shopping all the time, especially when it's them I want to buy for,'' she said. "I never have the luxury of thinking about a gift and going back to the store to get it. It's always a one-shot deal -- maybe twice if I'm lucky.''

The free Goodwill service, which has been in place for 15 years, pairs volunteers with adults who have physical disabilities, said coordinator Tonya Yeagle.

"Volunteers Express is an opportunity for community members to share themselves with someone in need,'' she said.

"You can make a difference in the lives of people with arthritis who need you to help with preparing meals or writing letters . . . (or) people who are visually impaired who need someone to read their mail or help with household organization.''

Personal care such as grooming and bathing are not part of the program, but running errands, providing transportation to cultural events and gardening are among the activities that are.

"All I want for Christmas is a volunteer in my stocking,'' joked Mrs. Baldwin.

Having a helper would give her a chance to shop around. "I have an idea of what's out there, based on what I remember before I lost my sight, but I know there are a lot of new stores,'' she said. "It would help a lot to have someone describe for me what items look like.''

Mrs. Baldwin is one of more than 60 people who are waiting to be paired with a volunteer; about 70 matches already have been made.

"While there's a push now to find volunteers because of Christmas, we are always looking for people willing to give a little of their time all year long,'' Yeagle said. "It's not just a seasonal demand.''

The program is funded by the United Way of Franklin County and Nationwide Insurance.

Christine Nardecchia became involved with Volunteers Express nearly two years ago because she wanted to practice what she preaches on her job.

"I'm the volunteer coordinator for the city of Dublin, and I understand the importance of volunteerism,'' she said. "But more importantly, I wanted to do something in honor of my brother, who had multiple sclerosis (and) died two years ago.''

Nardecchia tries to spend a couple hours a week running errands with Noelita Maldeis, who lost her vision 18 years ago, also as a result of complications from diabetes.

She and Maldeis "clicked right from the start,'' Nardecchia said. "I believe the volunteers get 10 times more out of it than the participants that need the help. . . . I know I do.''

Maldeis has grown to trust Nardecchia as well as to feel that she is a friend.

"Because Christine has such good taste, I never question my purchases,'' Maldeis said. "The errands that Christine helps me with might seem small to her, but they mean a whole lot to me. She means the world to me.''

Volunteers with Goodwill Columbus' Volunteers Express must be 18 or older, pass a background check, have a clean driving record and agree to commit at least six months to the program. Those seeking assistance must be 18 or older, live independently in Franklin County and have a physical disability that limits daily activities. For more information, call Tonya Yeagle at 614-583-0395.