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Volunteers' job always rewarding

One man had been sleeping in his recliner for seven years because he couldn’t get in and out of a regular bed. Then there was the woman who planned to treat herself to a can of tuna fish for Christmas dinner.

The volunteers who donate their time to the Chapter’s Direct Assistance program hear lots of stories like these. But as challenging as their work can be at times, it is also tremendously satisfying.

Direct Assistance Volunteers

Cathy Goodrich, Katie Majovski, Katrin Haque
and Dianne Griffith

“We get to give away some of the Chapter’s money,” says Dianne Griffith, with a smile. The real estate agent started volunteering after her daughter was diagnosed with MS about two years ago. “When you leave, you feel you really accomplished something.”

Dianne told the man sleeping in his recliner to go out and find an electric hospital bed to his liking. The Direct Assistance program awards grants for durable medical equipment, prescription-drug assistance, wellness and fitness classes, and emergencies.

The volunteers make follow-up calls to those who have applied for help and point them to resources, whether it’s the Chapter’s own or others in the community. The need may be as simple as where to get a cooling vest or as complex as an insurance issue.

“It’s knowing where to ask for help,” says Cathy Goodrich, who has MS herself. When she approached the Chapter five years ago about donating her time, she asked for a “substantial” job that would also teach her a thing or two. She more than got her wish.

In addition to working with Direct Assistance, she serves on the Chapter’s new MS Insurance Advisory Group, which recently drafted a primer on MS and MS therapies for healthcare stakeholders, including insurance carriers.

Even though she’s the one making the phone calls, Cathy has sometimes found herself on the receiving end of incredible grace and generosity. One young man, who had applied for a wellness grant, proceeded to tell her about some things he had found useful.

“He wanted to help me,” she says.

Client Services Coordinator Debra Maas oversees the Direct Assistance volunteers. The program simply wouldn’t be able to help the number of people it does without the unpaid efforts of these four dedicated women, she says. Working with Dianne and Cathy, are Katie Majovski and Katrin Haque. Each puts in at least two hours a week at the Chapter’s office in Seattle.

That time commitment doesn’t include the three-hour round-trip bus commute made by Katrin, a Tacoma resident. A recent transplant from Germany, she wanted to do “something useful” while waiting on her Social Security application, a prerequisite to a paid job. For someone new to U.S. customs and systems, the work can be particularly challenging, not to mention heart wrenching. But Katrin wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Society can only function if everybody gives a little,” she says.

VOLUNTEER TODAY
The National MS Society prioritizes care of each individual impacted by multiple sclerosis. We offer many programs and services aimed at promoting health and wellness. Are you looking for an opportunity to give to your community AND use your skills? Consider this position which provides support to existing emotional health programs while being empowered to expand these through promotion and innovation. Full job description available for review. Email us or call 1-800-344-4867, press 2 then ext. 236.

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