Two Volunteers Win Fairhaven Memorial’s Oliver Halsell Care Award for work at Heritage Pointe
Working with seniors often take a higher level of understanding, patience, and intelligence—after all, seniors have had decades of education, work experience, and are first-hand witnesses to history! Recently, two Heritage Pointe frequent volunteers were recognized for their selfless contributions to the lives of seniors in Mission Viejo. These volunteers were awarded the Oliver Halsell Care Award by Fairhaven Memorial Services and is designed to pay tribute to Orange County senior care workers whose kindness and dedication to serving others is inspirational.
Marlene Mitnick is a volunteer that has given Heritage Pointe over 500 hours a year —for 25 years and counting! Growing up on the East Coast, her family ran a concession company. She became the star salesperson and bookkeeper to learn all she could about the business. After moving to California, she wanted to volunteer in the Mission Viejo area to get to know more people. Heritage Pointe had recently opened and seemed an exciting gathering place for active seniors and Jewish adults like her. She started volunteering in the Heritage Pointe Gift Shop before it was it was even a shop—just a glass case along a wall in the Café. Management was so pleased with the success of the little shop, they built out a 100 sf retail shop that was run by volunteers. Marlene continued to volunteer in the Shop and recruited many of her friends over the years to also help work at the Gift Shop. Marlene is passionate about the Shop because all of the proceeds go to the Heritage Fund that supports Residents who have financial needs.
The Gift Shop has become a hub for this 170-Resident community, and an activity center for Residents to grab a snack, pick up gift items, and feel “normal” when sometimes getting old doesn’t feel “normal” at all.
Marlene takes her responsibility to seniors very seriously. She is a great listener and, over the years, has made friendships with Residents and their families. Residents looked forward to the days she was in the Shop, so they can show her recent pictures of new grandchildren or newly married family members. She helps them pick out items like birthday cards or childrens toys or holiday earrings, and loves to suggest items that she knows they would like. There are seniors who look to her for advice and as a role model to emulate. She is clearly a peer, yet her enthusiasm and care with seniors at Heritage Pointe goes beyond being just a “volunteer”. It’s hard to imagine a busier 87-year-old! Her energy to help others is truly an inspiration.
Norbert started volunteering about four years ago when he decided to look for a way to really make a difference in his community. He weighed being a driver for ‘Meals on Wheels’ with Heritage Pointe, but ultimately chose the Jewish nonprofit to “get back to his roots”. He began his journey as a volunteer calling bingo numbers to Residents on Monday evenings. He loved getting to know the Residents and visitors and soon took up the most selfless and hardest volunteer task of all: becoming a medical escort.
Residents, like most seniors, have many medical appointments. Although Heritage Pointe has a fleet of buses and cars to take Residents to and from appointments, many seniors find navigating their way to the doctors office, filling out forms, or riding an elevator alone quite daunting. Volunteer medical escorts ride the Heritage Pointe bus with the Resident, establishing a connection, and then guide them off the bus and safely to the doctors office. Then the volunteer waits in the waiting area during the appointment and safely guides the Resident back to the vehicles and back home to Heritage Pointe. Norbert has been helping seniors as an almost daily medical escort for four years. This is a true test of a volunteer, working one-on-one with a senior that make feel sick or sad or in pain. And sitting and waiting around in a doctors office (for someone else!) is its own test of strength.
And yet, Norbert is undaunted. He volunteered to paint a common area hallway at Heritage Pointe, because he knew that would cheer up the Residents that lived nearby. He volunteers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to be a server in the Dining Room so that the non-Jewish staff can have their holy days off and be with their families. He played chess every week with a Resident in the Memory Care wing for years until the Resident passed away last year. He sponsored the purchase of a new outdoor bench in a place that he knew seniors on their daily walks would appreciate the respite.
Special thanks to Fairhaven Memorial Services of Mission Viejo who recognized their contribution to the community by awarding them the treasured Oliver Halsell Care Award as well as making a donation to Heritage Pointe in Marlene’s and Norbert’s honor.
Fairhaven was founded in 1911 by Oliver Halsell to provide a peaceful and comforting place for families to honor their loved ones.