The Value of Volunteering

Written by: Meredith Stuart, Marketing & Development Specialist

At first, Joshua Stull didn’t want to go to a stranger’s house to pull weeds or take out the recycling. “I didn’t see a valuable point in doing it,” he admits. But when he and his mom Christina Renzette started volunteering with Brandywine Village Network (BVN) two years ago, he began to change his mind.

Brandywine Village Network, a program of Jewish Family Services of Delaware, mobilizes nearly 200 volunteers to help older adults live independently in their homes. Joshua, then 11 years old, and his mom were matched with Gordon Gee. Regular assistance from volunteers is a lifeline for Gordon, who suffered a stroke several years ago that left him with restricted mobility.

Joshua helps with the yardwork and chores around the house. Christina goes grocery shopping for him, and picks up his prescriptions. They take him out to lunch. “We like Gordon,” Joshua says. “He’s like us in many ways. He has a good sense of humor and likes to joke around. He’s like family now.”

Gordon lives alone. His wife passed away shortly after Joshua and Christina met him. Christina feels like it was meant to be that they were there for Gordon during that time. “He’s like family now,” she says. “It doesn’t even feel like volunteering anymore. When I log my hours it feels like cheating. It’s like hanging out with an uncle for me – or a grandfather for Joshua.”

“I love Gordon,” Joshua adds. “He’s my buddy. He has amazing stories to tell about his life. And he’s interested in what I tell him too.”

Christina and her son, Joshua, smile for the camera.For Christina, volunteering with her son was an opportunity to teach him to be giving, selfless, and appreciative. “I’m a single mom and I want to make sure our time counts and to teach him everything I can while he’s with me,” she says. “I felt like he was at a pivotal time to instill those values. We couldn’t have picked a better first place to volunteer.”

They chose to volunteer with BVN because it fit easily into their lives.

“BVN was one of the few places in Delaware where you could be his age and volunteer with a parent,” Christina explains. “Once we met with Maggie and found out all about what BVN does, I knew this was exactly what we need to do. It’s something that easily fits into our schedule.”

Now 13, Joshua fully believes in the value of volunteering. “I feel like I have progressed and become more selfless,” he says. “I learned to see past me and to focus on Gordon when we volunteer because Gordon is our priority.”

“I think he’s doing a good job,” Christina beams. “I’m proud of who he’s becoming. He’s not your typical little 13 year old. Can’t hid it, I’m very proud of him.”