Bingo, bowling and crafts – these are just a few of the activities Jenna Heinze does with patients at the Catholic Adult Care Center as a Badger Volunteer.
Heinze, a UW–Madison junior studying sociology and psychology, was not sure what she would gain from these activities when she joined Badger Volunteers.
But as she nears the end of her first semester in the program, Heinze says the rewards were greater than she had ever imagined.
“Forming those connections with the patients really made me reevaluate my goals and made me realize that I want to have an occupation where I’m able to form meaningful relationships with the people I’m providing care to,” Heinze says. “The patient interaction was really important to me, and Badger Volunteers made me realize that’s what I love doing.”
Heinze wanted to find a volunteer opportunity on campus at the start of the spring semester. When she stumbled upon Badger Volunteers, Heinze was excited to learn there were an abundance of volunteer opportunities, including ones related to her personal and academic pursuits.
Heinze’s passions led her to sign up for the Catholic Charities Adult Care Center, which provides support and customized activities for older adults who have conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“It was wonderful that I was able to choose a site that worked well with not only my schedule, but also my interests, skills and experiences I wanted to gain,” Heinze says.
Beyond bonding with the patients over activities and meals, Heinze says her favorite part of Badger Volunteers is building relationships.
She recalls one time when her Badger Volunteers group walked into the site and one gentleman said the volunteers always brought a smile to his day.
“That was a really memorable moment for me because it made me realize we do make an impact on the patient’s there, and it’s really enjoyable for both of us to share time with each other,” Heinze says.
Heinze says Badger Volunteers has shown her how volunteering provides valuable opportunities for both the patients and the volunteers. For Heinze, Badger Volunteers was her first experience working with older patients and participating directly in care-related work.
This experience working with patients steered Heinze away from a career in medicine or research. Thanks to Badger Volunteers, Heinze hopes to go to graduate school for counseling psychology and continue to create relationships with future patients.
“It was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone to really start talking with the patients and forming those connections,” Heinze says. “Through the volunteer work, I’ve also been more comfortable in providing them a good experience and just improving my own communication skills as I work towards my own goals in psychology and counseling.”
Aside from the personal and professional impacts, Heinze says Badger Volunteers made her aware of the greater impact the university has on the Madison community.
Whether students volunteer regularly at one site or even try one shift, Heinze says volunteering in the community as a student is an eye opening journey – one she hopes other students experience and learn to love as she has.
“Going to school at such a large campus, it’s hard to feel like you’re really making your mark sometimes,” Heinze says. “But being part of an organization that affects the broader community and makes meaningful, lasting relationships with others provides really great experiences for those who are looking to get involved and just be part of the community as a whole.”
Celebrate volunteers like Jenna during National Volunteer Week from April 17 – April 23! Say thanks to those who give back to the community and keep up with Badger Volunteers on Instagram and Facebook.