Anita Jansen has been volunteering at A.G. Rhodes’ Atlanta location for more than two years leading the Crochet Club. She will be moving to the Netherlands soon, where she’s from.
“Anita has been an amazing volunteer and friend to everyone at the Atlanta home these past couple of years,” said Kim Beasley, Director of Volunteer Services and Community Engagement. “The impact of what she has brought to our elders in the Crochet Club will have a ripple effect for years to come. We will miss her dearly and wish her well.”
What inspired you to start volunteering at A.G. Rhodes? Had you volunteered in a nursing home/with the elderly before?
After my Mom passed away (Feb 2015) I missed being able to help my Dad more than just calling him every day, especially when he also was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was looking for volunteer work with people and wanted to give the elderly some extra attention.
How did you get involved with the Crochet Club?
Looking for meaningful volunteer work, the nursing homes in my neighborhood did not have any opportunities. I Googled the internet and was lucky to find A.G. Rhodes. I wrote an email and had a very nice interview with Kim [the Director of Volunteer Services] and Vanissa [Director of Activities], discussing the possibilities. The idea of a Crochet Club was born.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering with the Crochet Club? Do you have any favorite projects?
In the 2+ years, we’ve done some projects together like crocheting afghans for an Atlanta homeless shelter, and we are now busy crocheting hats for the cancer patients in Emory hospital. No matter what we do, it is always good to create. We also made our own necklaces with beads and a little silver heart, which was fun for the ladies too.
How do you feel the Crochet Club benefits the residents?
All the ladies of the Club are enthusiastic about being together and having a nice afternoon. It is a joyful get together, sometimes singing a song, sometimes sharing a story. The important thing is that the ladies are part of a “special” group, helping each other and motivating or inspiring one another.
You have a unique perspective coming from another country/culture. Do you have any observations about your volunteer experiences here in the United States versus the Netherlands?
I admire the way people here in the U.S. are involved in volunteering. I learned that it is quite standard to form a group of volunteers with school, work or an organization. We do not know such thing in the Netherlands and therefore it is mostly retired people who are fit enough to do something extra, who choose to do volunteer work.
What have you learned from the ladies in the Crochet Club/what do you talk about while you’re working on your projects?
One participant is an artist with yarn. She makes beautiful afghans and even sent them to students/volunteers in NYC, who she met when they volunteered at A.G. Rhodes. From her, I learned how to use all the yarn and not waste any. And what knowledge she has about the world: whatever place I talk about, she knows something to tell about it.
Another participant, although not able to see much, is our star yarn-roller. She talks with pride about her family and being the oldest of 10 siblings. From her, I learned about how to really enjoy small things in life.
There is another participant who is such a special lady, who likes to crochet items for her (grand)children, and is still eager to learn. From her I learned how to stay strong.
One of our club members is still a good crocheter and even when not feeling so well, she tries to work on her project and is happy to talk a bit about her daughter, who she is so proud of. I learned from her to have faith.
One member likes to laugh. She is not always happy to roll the ball (make a ball of the yarn), but every week, she is present and enjoys the session. I learned from her to stay positive.
One of the participants passed away last year, and I oftentimes think about her, her silent personality but with many stories. I was able to read some chapters of her own book about her family (1930s), and learned from her how to be patient and just try.
I’ve learned from the activities staff members, who are always positive, interested and great to work with.
And I’ve learned from all the ladies who were participants of the Club, but no longer able to come.
We chat about a news item, when something special happens here in Atlanta or further away, and where we come from (our hometowns), about our families, and about journeys I make in the U.S. or foreign countries.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about your volunteer experience with A.G. Rhodes and the Crochet Club?
I felt at home from the first Tuesday I came to A.G. Rhodes. The atmosphere is very friendly, as are the staff and residents.
I will miss these special afternoons and remember the times we’ve spent, and will bring the experience back to my country.
Thank you all for having me. We will keep in touch and, as promised to the ladies, send a photo every now and then.
Take care of yourself and each other.
With love–and a big hug–from Anita.
July 10, 2018