This is Volunteer Appreciation Week and it's the perfect time to unveil a new feature. Welcome to the first of a monthly series called 'Volunteer Spotlight' designed to focus attention squarely on our diverse pool of incredible volunteers who make the work of Faith in Action of the Greater Kanawha Valley possible. We have so many wonderful people helping us every day as we strive to assist seniors who need a helping hand, neighbor to neighbor. Each have a unique story to tell. We're honored to share some of those stories with you here.
When Donna Edmondson's husband, Lee, accepted a position in West Virginia, it was supposed to be for a short period of time. So they packed up their young daughter and relocated here from Nashville, Tennessee.
That was seventeen years ago.
Since moving to Charleston, Donna has been a force for good in her adopted community. Her daughter, Amelia, was in first grade when they moved. Donna got busy creating a life here for her family and finding ways to give back to the community. "I was a very involved mom," she says. "Whatever Amelia was involved in, I volunteered to help. It was a busy, rewarding time."
When Amelia left for college in California, Donna says, "I thought I was ready." She and her husband had undertaken a significant project at their home that kept her attention for a while. But when it was finished, empty next syndrome hit her hard. She struggled with deep depression for a long time. She worked very hard to overcome it; still, it was a battle for nearly a year.
"Finally, it started to lift. I remember clearly making a promise to God," she says. "I promised I would help others if he would help me heal."
It's a promise she's kept with vigor. "I had to find the right volunteer opportunity for me. I enjoy being with people. I knew I wanted to find a way to connect with folks. I started volunteering at the food pantry, which I still do. And then I heard about Faith in Action."
Donna has taken her work with Faith in Action to heart, often volunteering several times a week driving our care receivers to their medical appointments. "Often, I get a big hug, and sometimes even tears after a trip to the doctor. The loneliness I've witnessed has touched me. It takes so little to bring them joy," she shares.
When she volunteers, the care receivers are more than just a task to Donna. "I like to learn about them and show interest in their lives. I feel like I'm doing more than offering them a ride; I'm making a connection, and sometimes, becoming a friend."
"After taking a care receiver a couple of times, I no longer consider them FIAGKV 'clients,' but friends. You really develop a bond with them, and I find myself looking forward to seeing them again."
"Volunteering with Faith in Action doesn't take a lot of time, but it is so rewarding," Donna says. "It has brought so much joy to my life. I don't think I'd be fulfilled if I hadn't found a way to serve people. It's hard to be depressed when you're being a blessing to someone else."