In the United States, April is National Volunteer Month—a month dedicated to recognizing the importance of volunteering and honoring the significant contributions volunteers make by generously donating their time and talents to worthy causes. The theme this year is “Volunteering is Empathy in Action.” LifePath depends on approximately 275 volunteers, more than double our full- and part-time employees, combined. In honor of National Volunteer Month, we checked in with SHINE and Money Management volunteer Carol Ball, 73, of Greenfield.
What do your SHINE (Serving the Health Needs of Everyone) and Money Management volunteer roles entail?
In my role as a SHINE volunteer, I provide information/guidance to Medicare beneficiaries (and those soon to be eligible for or covered under Medicare) regarding the programs that will assist them in managing their health care costs and needs. I meet clients one-on-one, either at the LifePath office in Greenfield, or by telephone, a method we began using when COVID precluded in-person visits. Generally, I have 3 appointments once a week.
For the Money Management program, I assist one low-income client with managing her financial affairs. I review her bank account monthly as well as the bills she needs to pay. I also have assisted my client with paperwork required as part of the annual recertification applications for the subsidized housing program, fuel assistance, and the supplemental nutrition assistance program. I visit my client at least once a month to review the paperwork that she receives, to be sure that everything is in order. Prior to COVID, I made in-person visits, but COVID necessitated phone calls instead. I have begun to visit in-person once more since both of us are fully vaccinated.
Why do you volunteer, and why did you choose LifePath?
I volunteer because there is a great need, clients are generally so grateful, and their gratitude is very rewarding.
In my role as a SHINE counselor, I derive great satisfaction in being able to help clients navigate the complexities of the world of Medicare and other insurance programs. Since most people who contact SHINE were previously covered under group health insurance programs and did not have to make many individual decisions, our clients are sometimes overwhelmed at the prospect of having to make decisions for themselves and to understand new terminology. Our main goal is to help our clients to access the programs that will benefit them at the lowest cost.
Tell me a little about yourself.
In my prior professional life, I worked for Phoenix Insurance Company, in the building where LifePath is currently housed. I was involved with group health insurance plans sponsored by employers, so volunteering for SHINE seemed like a good fit as I was already familiar with much of the terminology as well as the concepts.
Immediately upon graduation from Middlebury College, I became a Peace Corps volunteer. I had majored in French in college and spent two years as an English teacher at a secondary school in French-speaking Cameroon, West Africa.
This month, we honor and thank Carol and the many others like her who work to support others in their communities through LifePath’s programs. If you’d like to get involved, please call Carmela Lanza-Weil, Associate Director of Volunteer Resources, at 413-773-5555, Ext. 3006 or via email at email@example.com.