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Volunteers in Action volunteers met at Ixtapa Jan. 20 for an appreciation lunch. The program serves the elderly and those with long-term health concerns, and new volunteers are always needed.

Volunteers in Action (VIA) will hold its next new volunteer training on Monday, Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. — lunch will be provided — at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital in classrooms 1 and 2.

Persons of any age are welcome to volunteer, said Britta Willson, Volunteers in Action program coordinator. VIA works with volunteer schedules and there is no required time commitment.

It’s a priority of VIA to serve veterans, people living below the Federal Poverty Limit and those who are isolated and vulnerable. Families are welcome to volunteer together, and office or church groups are also encouraged to sign up.

“It’s a terrific opportunity to connect with our neighbors and make a difference in the community,” said Mark Thomas, chaplain, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, who oversees the program. “It’s a volunteer role, but the payment is rich in friendship.”

Volunteers provide assistance such as transportation to and from appointments, errands like grocery shopping, friendly home visits for companionship, respite for families caring for loved ones, meal preparation and yard work, minor home repairs and light housework. Needs vary, but transportation and bilingual (Spanish and English) speakers are two common requests.

“I do it because I want the chance to connect with people who don’t have a chance to connect with others themselves,” said Hood River Valley High School senior Edith Soto, who began volunteering with the program in October. “Also, I think it’s important for young people to volunteer — I’ve learned a lot from the person I’m working with. And there’s not a lot of Spanish speakers (who volunteer) and I’m willing to do that as well.”

“It’s a chance to give back; you can do it on your own terms, and you meet interesting people,” said Jackie Grubelnik, who has volunteered for about a year and is new to the region. “You learn a lot about the area.”

Volunteers must apply and pass a background check prior to placement and pass a tuberculosis blood test. Next comes a training component, either one on one with Willson or in a group setting, depending on the volunteer’s schedule. 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.

For more information or to register, contact Willson at 541-387-6404 or Brittany.willson@providence.org.

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