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VOLUNTEERS STORIES

MELISSA Beidler

Sharing Her Love Of Gardening, One Plant At A Time


Story by Charli Depner, photo by Richard Bermack

 

The volunteer behind the Beautification Team’s rejuvenation of the patio at Ashby Village’s new site is on a mission to revive beloved gardens that need attention.  Melissa Beidler took a break from working on her own garden to share her enthusiasm for people and their gardens.

 

Melissa attributes her passion for gardens and working with plants to her mother and grandmother, both “fabulous gardeners.”  When she retired after 30 years in banking and financial services, Melissa scanned volunteer.org for ways to share gardening skills honed over generations. 

 

She applied her business skills to the patio project at Ashby Village’s new site, creating a project plan, timetable, and budget.  The Beautification Team created a spectacular place for the people of the Ashby Village community to get together for a cup of tea, a moment of reflection, or events such as the Festival Italiano Volunteer Appreciation.  People appreciate the colorful backdrop of the patio when attending events in the Julia Morgan Hall.

 

Melissa enjoys working with individual members to revitalize gardens they may have tended for years.  “I can tell that, not too long ago, some of these gardens were spectacular. For many of us, the garden is the most important part of the home; but gardening is hard work and it can be difficult to see things get out of shape.”  As a volunteer, Melissa loves helping members rethink more manageable gardens or refresh what is already there.  Her goal is to leave a visually pleasing garden, where people can relax, enjoy happy memories, and delight in watching their gardens grow.

 

It is easy to get on a list for volunteer gardening help.  Just contact the Ashby Village Office at (510) 204-9200.


    

Melissa Beidler   

June, 3, 2017: FESTIVAL ITALIANO
A CELEBRATION OF ASHBY VILLAGE VOLUNTEERS

It is often said that the lifeblood of Ashby Village's culture of giving is its 320 volunteers, many of whom are also members.  On June 3, the Ashby Village community celebrated volunteers at Festival Italiano.  The office courtyard was transitioned into an Italian piazza decorated with Italian colors and featured an espresso bar and specialty cocktails of prosecco and elderflower syrup... Read more and watch the video of the event!


gordon seligson:
"ashby village makes a whole lot of sense"


by Charli Depner

In recognition of National LGBTQ Pride Month this June we celebrate community-building through increased awareness, interaction, and inclusion.  We also spoke with someone engaged in making that happen within the Ashby Village community.  

Gordon Seligson was invited to an Ashby Village Living Chat by members Joan Cole and Betsy Ferguson.  Hearing about Ashby Village’s membership services and activities, he said to himself, “This just makes a whole lot of sense!”   Gordon volunteers to drive and provides office support.  He also participates in Ashby Village Hearts & Hands activities. Gordon is one of those people who will step in to help in a pinch when a volunteer is needed. As he puts it, “I just like to help.”  

A founding member of Ashby Village’s LGBTQQA Interest Group, Gordon applauds Ashby Village’s efforts to build an inclusive community that mirrors Berkeley’s diversity.  “As we grow older, relationships change.  People may become marginalized and isolated and feel afraid to talk about who they were and are.  Some people go back into the closet.  The interest group gives us others to talk with and a path to promote understanding and interaction.” And LGBTQQA elders have insights that can help others aging in place. Statistics from the work of Dr. De Vries, cited in the Village Voices May issue, show that 75% of LGBTQ boomers said being LGBTQ helps prepare them for the challenges of aging.    

Following his retirement from Schwab in 2000, Gordon volunteered for a number of organizations, acting as a docent for President Roosevelt’s yacht USS Potomac, docked at Jack London Square, the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front Education Center, and Victory Ships in Richmond’s Henry J. Kaiser Shipyard. He also volunteers as a first grade teacher assistant at Henry J. Kaiser Elementary School and at the Alameda County Food Bank.  

Paired with his personal experience assisting elders, Gordon’s work as an AARP Foundation Tax Aid volunteer made him aware of the thousands of elders “going it alone” and the tremendous struggles people can face if they grow old in isolation. A friendly visit or a ride to the doctor would mean so much.  “This is where the village movement can make such a huge difference,” Gordon observes.  He sees an enormous  potential for growth in the village movement and believes that local press coverage and member referrals are the most effective ways to take it to scale.  

“My experience with Ashby Village has been all positive.  There is always something interesting going on,” Gordon reflects. “I realize how fortunate I am.  I also realize that I can really help through Ashby Village.  It’s all about giving back.” 

 
Gordon Seligson - photo by Richard Bermack
  

MEET COMPUTER DOCTOR SAM DUNCAN

“It’s a real thrill when I can fix something,” says Sam Duncan, an Ashby Village technology volunteer. And he means it. When contacted for this interview, the first thing Sam wanted to know was whether the newsletter was having any technology problems.

           

“I have no idea what I would have done if I were not living in the time of computers,” he says. Sam was hooked the moment his roommate at MIT introduced him to computers. He went on to spend most of his career programming in defense and aerospace as well as teaching computer courses.

 

Sam’s role as a technology volunteer began when he stopped by the Ashby Village booth at Berkeley Sunday Streets on Shattuck in 2014. He had recently retired to Berkeley, and the Ashby Village booth happened to be right outside his building. By early 2015, Sam was helping members with computers and electronics. Today he is part of a group of technology volunteers, some specializing in PCs, others in Macs, and still others in electronics. Some volunteers also serve on the Technology Committee, chaired by Maryl Gearhart. In addition to working with members, Sam enjoys volunteering in the Ashby Village Office, tending the office computers, printers, internet connections, and office equipment. According to Sam, it is a good match: “The staff are amazing, and I am thrilled to be able to work with them.”

 

One of the things Sam says he likes most about volunteering is “meeting a lot of really nice and interesting people.” He adds, “The vast majority of Ashby Village members are online and depend a whole lot on their computers and smart phones. It is really difficult when you can’t check email or get on line. I enjoy calling on members. People are always very appreciative. They are the nicest people in the world.”

 

The other thing Sam loves most about volunteering is figuring out how to solve computer problems. “I know what it is like not to have a computer that works. No one should ever feel stupid about having a problem,” he says. The problem could be with an Internet provider, faulty hardware or software, or maybe even a plug slightly pulled out of the outlet.

 

In addition to trouble-shooting, Sam gives personal tutorials, helping members establish their connections to Village resources, navigate the website, store addresses or photos, connect to social media, install apps to get services, Skype with family and friends, view an exercise video, listen to a podcast, or set up a Facebook profile.

 

What does Sam recommend if something goes wrong with a computer? Sam’s strategy is to look up the problem on Google, because “it has probably happened to someone else who posted a solution.” Try to keep calm and rest assured that Sam and the other technology volunteers will be there for you.

 
Volunteer Sam Duncan - photo by Richard Bermack
  

  


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