By Nicole Amling
Fran Smith has spent her whole life working and volunteering for social service organizations, doing what she can to help those who are less fortunate. Volunteering keeps her grounded, helping her remember that everyone has challenges in their lives and that we need to support one another. Eight years ago, she started volunteering regularly with Chicago Cares.
“Chicago Cares was very convenient,” Fran said. “I appreciated the variety of volunteer opportunities and that I didn’t have to commit right away to doing something every week.”
Now Fran regularly volunteers at Lakeview Nursing, leading the Pet Therapy program, and at the House of Good Shepherd, a shelter for women and children who have been abused. She has been a volunteer leader at Lakeview Nursing for five years, and takes great pride in her responsibility and the work she does there. She always tells her new volunteers not to worry because “volunteering is easy and fun,” and by the end of the project, they agree.
Fran has become a fixture at Lakeview Nursing.
“Many of the residents don’t have family or receive visits,” said Rosie Drumgoole, Chicago Cares’ Director of Ongoing Volunteer Programs. “It’s amazing to watch the residents light up when Fran’s around.”
Fran especially loves the human interactions that fill her volunteer time. While solo activities like gardening can be fulfilling to some, Fran prefers to get to know people, learn names, and form a relationship with the people that she serves.
“My favorite resident is a woman who experienced a stroke and is confined to a wheelchair,” Fran says. “She is always so charming and grateful for everything you do. Nursing homes can be depressing places. Our program breaks up the routine of the residents’ lives. I love to see the joy and smiles on residents’ faces when the volunteers arrive.”
Fran describes volunteering as a win-win situation.