University of Maryland Student Makes a Difference

As a coordinator for Terp Service, a service-learning organization at the University of Maryland, College Park, I lead students on Terp Service Days to Seabury to participate with the Age-In-Place Program. My favorite experience with the Age-In-Place Program was when my participants and I had an opportunity to assist Mrs. H. Mrs. H was receiving assistance from Seabury because she was on the verge of having a hoarding problem. On our first trip to her home, we could barely walk around her basement because she had so many items and pieces of furniture piled up on the floor. We began the Terp Service Weekendprocess of cleaning her basement by organizing her items that she wanted to keep or discard. By end of the day we had created a clear walkway through her basement.

A month later a new group of volunteers and I returned to assist Mrs. H. We continued where we had left off last time and by the end of this visit her basement was unrecognizable. All of her items were organized and the trash was gone. We transformed Mrs. H’s basement and returned order to it. But you could also sense that we had returned order and control to Mrs. H’s life due to her more positive attitude, nonstop smiling, and sincere expressions of thanks. It was rewarding for me to see the progress that was made over two visits and to witness firsthand the positive impact my participants and I had on someone else’s life. At each new Terp Service Day I always tell this story and use Mrs. H as my poster child for how community service can directly impact the lives of others.

I initially got involved with Age-In-Place because in the past I had been close to many older family friends that were economically disadvantaged.  I had always helped those individuals and had the pleasure to see how appreciative they were to receive any sort of help or attention I was able to give them.  I wanted to continue to help others in this way through the Age-In-Place Program.

Freudenberger_headshot2Next year, I plan to attend medical school and, one day, become an orthopedic surgeon.  I believe my experiences volunteering with Age-In-Place have allowed me to become more understanding and knowledgeable about social issues the elderly populations face.  Without a doubt many of my future patients will be seniors and so engaging with seniors through Age-In-Place will be extremely invaluable and useful in my future medical career. I would encourage not only my friends, but anyone to volunteer with Age-In-Place.  Many stigmas and preconceived notions exist about seniors.  However, I always tell people that such beliefs are nonsense and volunteering with Age-In-Place will prove just that. Some of the best memories I will take away from my time as a student at the University of Maryland will be my memories from working with Age-In-Place and truly understanding the impact anyone can have on other people’s lives.  I believe that anyone who volunteers with Age-In-Place would think the same.

Devon is originally from Elkton, Maryland.  She is currently a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park where she is studying bioengineering in the hopes of becoming a surgeon. If you or your student group are interested in volunteering with Seabury’s Age-In-Place, contact Sarah Dolejs (sdolejs@seaburyresources.org).

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