Golden Givers of Time

Local senior volunteers provide effort and enthusiasm

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o Compassion Camas/Washougal Free Medical Clinic, 835-8714,

o Friends of the Washougal Community Library, 835-5393,

o Parks Foundation of Clark County, 487-8370,

o Prestige Care and Rehabilitation Camas, 834-5055,

o Silver Star Search & Rescue, 608-2920, or

Area residents with years of wisdom, expertise and experience are sharing their knowledge with others and enriching their own lives in the process.

Merrie and Glenn Thompson

The Thompsons, Washougal residents since 1978, volunteer for the Friends of the Washougal Community Library.

Librarian Chris Hughey describes them as “tireless.”

“They pick up donations, sort, run book sales and more,” she said.

Merrie, 67, serves as the book sale chairman.

She became involved in the library about 10 years ago.

That has included baking cookies, screen printing T-shirts, making holiday decorations and cleaning up after programs.

Glenn, 69, has volunteered at the library for five years.

He is vice president of the Friends.

“I couldn’t do all that I do for the book sale without his help,” Merrie said.

Her love for children and books keeps her volunteering at the library.

“I believe that getting children to read as early in their lives as possible can make a big difference,” Merrie said. “Programs in the library geared towards kids bring them into a fun and friendly atmosphere and get them interested in returning to maybe find a book to read or just come back to have fun.”

Challenges to volunteering include time and energy.

“Glenn and I do travel a good bit, but when we are home there is always something to do with the library,” Merrie said. “I have had to learn to slow down when it comes to working with books, because they are heavy and sometimes I forget that I am 67.”

o Compassion Camas/Washougal Free Medical Clinic, 835-8714,

o Friends of the Washougal Community Library, 835-5393,

o Parks Foundation of Clark County, 487-8370,

o Prestige Care and Rehabilitation Camas, 834-5055,

o Silver Star Search & Rescue, 608-2920, or

She said it can be difficult to stay motivated to volunteer after years of working an eight-hour a day job.

“Volunteering has given me a reason to get up and keep moving,” Merrie said. “I believe that the worst thing a person can do for themselves is to stop moving. Your mind and your body suffer for it.”

The Thompsons usually go to a gym at least three times a week, in an effort to stay fit.

“I know without this exercise, that volunteering would be harder for us,” Merrie said. “Exercise keeps my body fit, but volunteering keeps my mind fit.

“Volunteering keeps me on the go — meeting new people, trying new things and enjoying life to the fullest,” she added.

Merrie’s goal with the library now is to do everything in her power to help Washougal get a new library.

“If you are looking for something fun to do with your time, visit the library,” she said. “Your life will be richer by just reaching out to others.”

Dolores Shaw

Shaw, of Washougal, is one of several senior citizens who volunteer for the Compassion Camas/Washougal Free Medical Clinic.

Medical services are provided to people who are low-income or do not have access to health care on the third Saturday of each month, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Bethel Community Church, 1438 “B” St., Washougal.

There are also haircuts, massages and foot care, when available. The services are free, but donations are accepted.

“As a Christian, I believe God would have me serve him and others,” said Shaw, 75. “It gives life purpose and meaning and meets a need in the community.”

She said volunteering takes time, and if you commit to something you need to be faithful.

“You also need to make sure it is something you are interested in and which you believe will make a difference in the world,” Shaw said.

Volunteering keeps the body and mind active and individuals involved in the community.

“It is a privilege,” Shaw said.

Her parents, ages 96 and 97, live in Camas.

Shaw said there are some people who live in assisted living and nursing homes in the area who do not have families nearby.

“They could use people who would take an interest in them,” she said.

Joan Liller

Liller, 83, volunteers at Prestige Care and Rehabilitation Camas.

For 12 years, she has called the numbers for the weekly bingo games at the former Highland Terrace Nursing Center.

Liller feels her week is not complete if she is unable to attend.

“She arrives early and spends time visiting with familiar residents and inviting new ones to attend,” said Dianna Kretzschmar, director of admissions and marketing at Prestige. “The visiting and encouraging was something she continued through two inpatient stays at Prestige for separate health issues over the past six years.”

For a few years, residents played bingo games for quarters. Liller did not want anyone to miss out on a prize, so she donated $5 in quarters each week until the activity department started using tickets. The tickets could be redeemed for items at a weekly “country store” set up in one of the facility’s dining rooms.

Liller worked in the housekeeping department at Highland Terrace, from 1970 to 1974 and the dietary department from 1994 to 1998. In between those assignments, she worked at the Crown Zellerbach paper mill, in downtown Camas.

Liller’s daughter, Cheryl Moulton, is director of the medical records department at Prestige. Moulton has worked at the facility for a quarter of a century.

Liller’s son, Jeff, and nephew, Robert, have also previously worked at Prestige.

She recommends volunteering to everyone.

Henry Gerhard

Gerhard, 68, has served three terms as president of the Parks Foundation of Clark County.

Overall, he has volunteered with the organization for 11 years, including a decade as a board member.

Gerhard continues to serve on the events committee and the grant analysis committee.

“I get to act on issues I care about,” he said.

Gerhard said sometimes family commitments limit his available time to volunteer.

“You can’t take on everything,” he said.

Gerhard serves on the Washougal planning commission.

“People should be active within their community about those things they care about — whether they are 25 or 55,” he said. ” I have met few people at any age whose mental image of themselves isn’t still a fairly young 30 to 35. Every day is another day, whether good, bad or indifferent.”

Rick Blevins

Blevins, 55, joined Silver Star Search & Rescue in 1976.

He is president of the non-profit, all-volunteer organization, based in Washougal.

Silver Star has provided search and rescue services for Clark, Skamania and Cowlitz counties for 51 years.

Volunteers respond to wilderness and urban emergencies and perform search and rescue missions, as requested by the Department of Emergency Management.

“It’s important to help families who have a lost loved one,” Blevins said. “It’s a great effort amongst volunteers to accomplish that. It takes everyone to do it — from the ground pounders [walkers] to the incident commander who is usually a sheriff’s deputy.

“We work very closely with the sheriff’s department when they need people power, to find those people who are missing and bring them back in a timely manner or help carry them out,” he added.

Silver Star provides education in wilderness survival, first-aid and CPR to members and guests. When requested, they have provided safety patrols and first-aid stations at local community events.

Silver Star volunteers drive hospital staff to and from work, during extreme inclement winter weather.

“It’s really amazing where some of these people live,” Blevins said. “They don’t expect a lot of snow. Some people are timid on slick road conditions.”

Blevins, of Vancouver, said Silver Star tries to accommodate volunteers age 16 and older, particularly individuals who enjoy being outdoors or have computer experience.

Additional opportunities include serving on a command bus or providing electronic mapping services.

“We can teach them, to make the mission go as smoothly as possible,” Blevins said.

He said individuals involved with Silver Star are hoping to attract high school students to volunteer. It benefits youth by providing community service project hours, and it can serve as a stepping stone to working in the emergency services field.

“They might become paramedics or firefighters,” Blevins said.

Having additional volunteers for Silver Star would result in more people being available to cover a 24/7 operation.

“We have our own jobs,” Blevins said. “Some employers allow us to have breaks for this. Some cannot afford for the employee to go. We need mass numbers of searchers to cover seven days, to provide a better service in a shorter period of time.”

Jan Foltz

Foltz, 66, has been a member of Silver Star Search & Rescue for more than 14 years.

Her daughter was saved by search and rescue personnel in Idaho 20 years ago, after a rock scrambling accident.

They treated, prepared for transport and carried Foltz’s daughter to a Life Flight helicopter that flew her to a hospital in Spokane.

“This is why I owe so much to search and rescue,” she said. “I decided that I would like saving people as a payback.”

With Silver Star, she volunteers as a technician II on the rope rescue team and an emergency medical technician on the medical team.

Foltz, of Battle Ground, has also been part of the mountain bike team and backcountry ski team, and she qualified to drive the Snowcat vehicle.

She has served as a ground searcher in mountainous and city searches, and she has conducted evidence searches.

Foltz has attended concerts and charity walks as an EMT.

She said Silver Star Search & Rescue is best suited for people who like spending time outdoors.

The organization has taught her a lot of things, but most important, she said it has taught her that she can take care of herself.

“You could drop me in the wilderness for a week with my 24 hour pack, and I would not be afraid,” Foltz said. “I am that confident in my abilities and preparedness. This has carried over into all aspects of my life. I am a team player who understands the need to do my share, as well as support my teammates.

“There is a place for anyone who is willing to learn and support the team,” she added.

Some older volunteers work on the communications systems, raise money, volunteer in public relations, and teach outdoor safety in the schools.

“There are many opportunities with Silver Star Search & Rescue,” Foltz said. “Come meet us, and we will find a place for you in our family.”