Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
At 81, Jacksonville resident Vera Sherman shows no signs of slowing down, especially when it comes to volunteering her time in service of others.
“I have already been blessed so much, to have my health, because money cannot buy health,” said the spry senior citizen. “And the Lord has blessed me to have my health that I see no reason why I can't be out here, taking care of someone who is less fortunate.”
She recently joined an effort to create a summer community garden at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, and since October, has been a volunteer at Bonner Street Plaza nursing home.
“I'd been (back in Jacksonville) four or five months (after moving from Dallas), and I was thinking, 'What can I do to get involved in? What can I do?'” she recalled.
A chance meeting at the local Walmart with a friend who works at the nursing home led to an invitation to visit the Bonner Street facility.
“So I did, and (the two) began talking about what I could do” to become involved in the community, Sherman said. “I like to be out among people, I'm a people person. And I told her, 'I really wish I could find something to do that would be as much fun as what you're doing,' and she said, 'Have you ever thought about volunteering here?'”
She loved the idea, and was introduced to Peaches Clayborne, the home's activity director.
“It's wonderful having her here, and I couldn't ask for a better volunteer,” Clayborne enthused. “I probably will never again have a volunteer like Ms. Sherman.”
According to the activity director, the octogenarian walks from her home to the home, at 421 S. Bonner, six mornings a week to help out.
“She comes in and goes from room to room, visiting with each resident, letting them know what's going on that morning, then she'll make a second round (through the facility) to get the ones in wheelchairs and bring them to where the activities are being held,” Clayborne said.
As Clayborne leads activities, Sherman will assist – even lead the activities if the director is not able to do so herself – and then take residents back to their rooms if they so desire.
“She's one of a kind,” she said, describing how the volunteer donates items for the facility's bingo games or brings items from home so that staff can prepare special treats for the residents. “She just does a lot.”
While she understands the value of what she brings to an organization as a volunteer, Sherman places a greater value on the bonds she's developed with those she's serving and what blessings they shower on her.
“It's just a joy to walk in there. If I have a problem, I can walk in and whatever they are, my problems go away,” she said. “They're just a group of special people. And when you lose one, it's just like losing a family member.”
Over the years, she has volunteered her time with numerous organizations – schools, churches, even helping raise money for the fire department out of sheer gratitude for their calls to her residence – because she believes that when “I see that somebody needs to be doing something for them, I usually am there. If it's something I can do, I'll do it.”
And in Jacksonville she's found a community with a big heart, whose citizens jump at the chance to do for others.
“People are just so willing to help,” she said, recalling how when her grandchild's house was damaged by fire, people rallied around the family and helped them rebuild their home.
The family had “numerous people going to them out there to help, (only asking of the family to) 'maybe just barbecue for us one night,'” Sherman said. “And they did – they had a barbecue for all the people who helped them. Jacksonville has always had that kind of people (who help without hesitation).”
Sherman encourages others to find something they might like to help with, and “give it a try – see if it's something you really want to do,” and to “think about how much pleasure you can bring to somebody else's life.
“It doesn't take any time, honestly, just a few minutes, sometimes, but means so much to others,” she said. “You don't see too many places who couldn't use volunteer help.”
Simply put, it's the Golden Rule – Do unto other as you would like done to you – that motivates her volunteer spirit.
“People will ask me, 'what do you get out of volunteering?' I say, 'well, I think about myself too' … I hope that somebody will be there one day for me, somebody who cares,” she said.