My congregation did not have any caring or “Sunshine” program so I offered to create one. I used my personal experiences with illness and death to craft a program that extends comfort and support to our members. These are some of the things we do that can be adapted to any organizational setting:
1. When a member is sick, hospitalized, in treatment, or bereaved we send a card with a handwritten note.
2. Rather than send a sympathy note to the bereaved, we send a thinking of you card two weeks following the death, a time when company is often gone and loneliness sets in.
3. We call all members who are sick, hospitalized, in treatment, or bereaved to check in and see how they are doing. We ask if they would like a personal visit and if they do, a volunteer visits. Or, if they seem to be struggling, we ask if we can check in again and then a volunteer follows up until the member is feeling better.
4. We deliver a challah to all bereaved members with a note that says the congregation is thinking of them. This gives us another opportunity to let them know they are not alone.
5. If the member needs some help with meals, a meals coordinator calls to determine how many meals they need, how many family members, and allergies or special needs. The meals coordinator then sends an alert to volunteers and meals are delivered on schedule.
6. If a member requires help with transportation to medical appointments or the pharmacy, a message is sent to our volunteer coordinator. She either arranges for a volunteer to help or links the member to local social services.
Making a difference in the life of someone ill or grieving a loss is deeply satisfying and volunteers report that they get more than they give. Whether you are a neighborhood, religious institution, business, or community, everyone profits from caring. The most satisfying element of any program is the shift from a caring program to a caring community.
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