Volunteers in Action Program Coordinator Britta Willson has scheduled a training event for Aug. 31, and she’s doing it in memory of late program volunteer and longtime Hood River resident Rodger Schock, who passed away in June.

“Rodger was one of my volunteers through Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital’s Volunteers in Action,” said Willson.

“He was an incredible cornerstone of this community and words cannot express my personal gratitude for the service he provided to the older adults and persons with disabilities enrolled in our program.”

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Rodger Schock 

Schock began volunteering with ViA in 2015 and provided over 168 hours of service, driving program recipients more than 3,300 miles to appointments in Portland and around the Gorge — 1,500 of those miles in the last year alone.

“Without Rodger, many, many people would’ve been unable to make it to their important medical and social service appointments,” she said. “Not only did Rodger have a generous spirit, but a wonderful ‘can do’ attitude and great sense of humor! Clients often would specifically request him by name because they enjoyed their time with him so much. Rodger was one of a kind and he will be deeply missed.”

Because Schock played such a big role in the program, his loss has been deeply felt. Willson is hoping to recruit new volunteer drivers at the Aug. 31 training, although, as she points out, “Rodger Schock is truly irreplaceable.” 

ViA is a free service program at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, serving Hood River and Klickitat counties. The goal: To support people in maintaining independence through compassionate relationships. It is a priority to serve veterans, those living below the Federal Poverty Limit and those who are isolated and vulnerable.

“Our goal is to provide social and practical support, which empowers care receivers to pursue wellness on their own terms,” said Willson in a January News article. “We serve adults with long-term healthcare needs and those with developmental, mental or physical disabilities, most of whom are older adults aged 60 and older.”

Client needs vary, but transportation is a big one, as are volunteers who are bilingual.

The program has 76 registered volunteers, but only 20 are what Willson describes as regular. Of those 20, only half are able to provide transportation to appointments, and now, with Schock’s passing, only three are willing to make the trip into Portland.

“Rodger was our go-to guy with just about anything,” said Mark Thomas, director of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care at PHRMH and ViA supervisor. “He could solve all kinds of problems, from transportation dilemmas to broken furniture. But Rodger was more than a fixer; his wry humor and teasing let everyone he connected with feel how much he loved them.”

Volunteers have a huge impact on the ViA clients they serve. One client (name withheld by request) who came to know Schock through the program put it this way:

“I came to know Rodger through the Volunteers in Action Program here in Hood River. Before this first encounter, the being of Rodger was unknown to me. What I discovered during the times he ‘chauffeured’ me was a man of deep thought and kind heart, and a great conversationalist with quick wit.

“From the start, it was as if Rodger and I were old friends, reminiscing about days gone by, the doings of today, and our hopes for the future. While Rodger never said it, I felt like he had a need to help people and there is no doubt he was dedicated to that mission. Rodger, and yes, this part speaks directly to Rodger, I know you never liked to hear it, but thank you — I am so grateful.”

“You could be the only person that person sees this week,” Willson said. “People don’t really understand the flexibility and freedom there is in doing the volunteer work … just how you can do something very small and how big a difference it makes.”

Volunteering is whatever works for the person’s schedule — there is no required time commitment. Families are welcome to volunteer together, and office or church groups are also encouraged to sign up.

Volunteers must apply and pass a background check prior to placement. Next comes a training; a training binder additionally goes home with the volunteer for later reference. Training covers such topics as how people change with age, how to communicate with people with dementia and the warning signs of a stroke.

The Aug. 31 training will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at PHRMH. Registration is required. To RSVP or for more information, contact Willson at 541-387-6404 or Brittany.willson@providence.org.

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