Thanksgiving: What giving back means to Full Life’s volunteers

Full Life’s volunteers share their experiences of making Thanksgiving deliveries to elders over the festive holiday



Full Life Care’s ElderFriends volunteer companionship program has offered a Thanksgiving meal and visit for 27 years.  This festive event, which often becomes a favorite tradition for volunteers and their families, brings in new volunteers year after year. This Thanksgiving, the generous offering was also extended to participants in Care Teams — our newest volunteer-based program which supports unpaid family caregivers and their loved ones.

During an orientation over Zoom, participants shared their experiences through the years and what volunteering with Full Life means to them.

“I think what keeps me coming back is just the connections with people,” said Fiona, who managed to convince her now-husband to visit an elder with her during Thanksgiving. “She just interrogated him and we talk about it to this day — How long have you been dating? When are you getting married? Where do you live?”

The connection exemplified how even strangers can feel like family in the moment, explained Fiona.

“You get to hear a little bit of their life story in a kind of condensed time and they’re always so appreciative,” said Tina.

“You get as much out of it as the person that you’re visiting,” added Dennis, who’s been volunteering with Full Life for about 8 years. “I’m amazed at the people that are out there and the stories they have.”

Others explained how the holiday visits have become a family tradition.

“It was a bonding experience for the three of us — my son, my daughter, and myself,” said Eileen. “And it’s just been wonderful. So for the past couple of years I’ve carpooled with them.”

Generous community support is also a Thanksgiving tradition at Full Life. Operation Sack Lunch provides the meals, and long-time supporters contribute accompaniments for each special delivery: Ballard Blossom offers fresh roses, first graders at the Bertschi School handcraft artistic placemats, the Swartz family creates festive Harvest Treat bags, and the Lambda Alpha Zeta Chapter of the Zeta Alpha Beta Sorority, Inc. donates funds for additional finishing touches.

“The quality of the cards is beyond compare,” said Anneliese, who enjoys showing her husband the specially made cards from community volunteers included in the delivery bags. Many are hand-drawn or painted, and some include “little scribbles from a two-year-old” whose parents then help translate.

“I’ve talked to at least a half a dozen people who have saved every card and placemat since the beginning,” said Crissy Gonzales, ElderFriends Supervisor, attesting to the frequent expressions of gratitude from participants.

It comes down to “small miracles, extraordinary lives,” a tagline that plays out throughout all of Full Life’s programs.

“Sometimes the things that we offer and the interactions that we have seem so small, but just one little greeting card can make a big difference,” said Ginger Seybold, Director of Volunteer Programs, explaining how small actions can make a big impact. “Ten minutes of a conversation at the door has benefits for our health and wellbeing. We are grateful for each volunteer and their gifts of time and service with our participants– especially during this holiday season.  Those small moments add up in a big way!”

Inspired to spread more joy to elders and caregivers near you?

Click here to sign up to volunteer for our upcoming December holiday delivery event, or become a long-term volunteer for our ElderFriends or Care Teams programs.