after i graduated college i knew i would be bored with just working 9-5 everyday so i made a list of goals, projects and to-do's to keep me busy. the list included working out regularly, monthly museum visits, scrapbooking my travels and college years and volunteering. i did pretty good with the list. i started working out at the free campus workout room by my office, i scrapbooked all of my favorite college photos and i visited museums more often than i ever had before.
most importantly i got involved with volunteering through chicago cares, an organization that coordinates various volunteer projects throughout the city. i wasn't really sure where to start so i went with convenience and picked a seniors bingo project near my apartment. on my first night i was seated with a man named joe. i was greeted by him squinting at me saying, "thank god you're not a blonde. i hate blondes." he also came up with colorful phrases to yell out throughout the game. for example, the caller would pull the I-30 bingo ball and joe would say, "I-30 your face is dirty. clean your face vera!" to the partially deaf woman that couldn't him screaming. he once asked me if he could be like my grandpa and i gladly said yes, ofcourse. i also helped a resident named jesse who needs help placing his chips on his card. jesse is THE most gentle, patient man i know and i have never seen someone get more excited to get a BINGO. the other residents really get into the game too and really enjoy our company. even on my first visit, i realized that they were special, quirky and completely ridiculous and i had to come back. i have been attending every monday since february 2008 and loving every minute of it. i am now a project leader once a month and have gotten to know the residents very well. getting involved with the bingo project led me in the direction of a variety of other chicago cares volunteer opportunities.
joe passed away shortly after i started volunteering there and i was devastated. but everytime they call I-30 i mutter clean your face vera under my breath in his memory :) i still sit with jesse and some other residents - a different joe, lee and peggy. they are all sort of my substitute grandparents since i have none of my own anymore. they give me peppermints, tell me amazing stories, meddle in my life a little bit and greet me with a warm smile every time i walk in the activity room on monday evenings. just as a grandparent would. hightlights from this past monday: joe won 3 times and everyone else was pissed, they noticed that i got a new purse and jesse wore a 'bingo nut' baseball hat.
these people are so important to me and add a value to my life that i can't even fully understand just yet. more on them soon...