Life-Changing Volunteer Work

Assisted project

Ciaran Clute of Schaumburg walked into Friendship Village on a hunch and changed not only her own life, but the lives of people she got to know. A year ago, the then eighteen-year-old said that on instinct, as well as some encouragement from her mother, she “decided to walk in and ask for an application to volunteer” at the senior living community. Now, Ciaran is a well-loved fixture at Friendship Village. Additionally, the young woman has possibly shifted the trajectory of her life due to the experience. 

“I had offered to work anywhere at Friendship Village. Wherever they wanted me,” Ciaran said. “Their greatest need was with Circle of Friends. This program encourages new or reluctant residents to join the many activities and social events at the community. Circle of Friends is coordinated by Joshlyn (Josh) Johnson. “I met Josh and thought she was the nicest woman ever. She has so much fun with the residents, visiting them and getting them out of their rooms and together with their neighbors. It’s awesome to see. I’m so glad that Circle of Friends is where they needed me,” Ciaran said. “I also work wherever and whenever there’s a need.”

Ciaran is in her first year at Harper College, where she’s completing her general education requirements in preparation for studying nursing. While she’s known for years that this was the field she’d pursue, Ciaran said that her work at Friendship Village has reinforced her drive. Furthermore, she’s now considering focusing on geriatrics. “That’s something I wouldn’t have thought of before,” she said. Explaining that she loves working with seniors, Ciaran said, “They’re so smart and fun. And they’re comfortable putting you in your place, which is kind of nice. I feel that a lot of people need to be put in their place…a little push, or some helpful advice. I also love to watch how nice the residents here are helping each other. They understand what their peers are going through.”

Ciaran said she tends to be onsite at Friendship Village 15-25 hours each week, depending on her schedule. In addition to going to school, she also works 30 hour weeks at Portillo’s.

Ciaran’s made it her mission to get to know the residents with whom she works. “I know about their kids and grandkids and their jobs. They like it when people really get to know them,” she said, adding that she’s finding her volunteer experience to be mutually beneficial. “The residents love me, they really do, and I love them back. It’s really great. If I’m gone, they’ll tell me they missed me. I think they love the energy that I bring. I have a lot of it,” she confessed. 

From her perspective, she said, her experience has completely redefined what she thought about seniors. “Oh my goodness, every misconception I had about seniors was wrong. The residents here are so fun-loving and out and about. It’s a great environment.”

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