Creating the Volun-Cheer Force – Review

by Corina Sadler, CVA, Volunteer Resources Supervisor at City of Plano

I just finished reading “Creating the Volun-Cheer Force: Rethinking the Way We Use Volunteers in Long-Term Care” by Paul Falkowski Ph.D.

I first met Paul (virtually) when he interviewed me for the VolunCheerLeader Podcast. He may have been surprised to know that my Bachelor’s was in Applied Gerontology and after several volunteerism experiences with older adults in my youth I thought that would be my career path. 

This book was an easy read especially if you’re interested in different types of volunteer programs. I will admit, by page 20 I had shed a tear. Paul stirred up a lot of memories for me not only about my experiences as a volunteer with older adults but of my grandmother’s end of life journey in a nursing home.

Paul points out that there are an estimated 1.3 million vacancies in long-term care (and that was before COVID-19). Several things I like about this book are the quick history lessons about where nursing home policies have come and gone and how it affects the use of volunteers, the interviews with paid staff and ‘super’ volunteers, and especially this quote,

“we cannot attract young people into gerontology if we don’t give them an opportunity to be exposed to caring for older adults.”

This is a large part of what volunteer engagement means to me, to open doors, let people in, welcome those who would not normally seek out service, and let them fall in love with what we do and who we serve.

This book is a good read for volunteer managers who work in senior care, administrators who oversee decision making in senior care, those who may be interested in a career in senior care, those who want to promote volunteer programs within senior care, families who want to advocate for more engagement for their loved ones in a nursing home, students exploring career paths in volunteer management and volunteer managers who want a new perspective.

Paul points out, “The number of older adults needing long-term care will only continue to grow, the need for increased community involvement will only increase, as well as the need to establish the infrastructure for promoting and supporting nursing home volunteer programs.”

How many times do we drive by a long-term care facility and not once think of the people inside?

What if those people had an advocate that could reach past their walls and tell the community “We need you here.”

Reading how Paul went from knowing nothing about nursing homes to running a volunteer matching program called Community 360° for 26 years is amazing and proves that some ‘super’ people don’t just ask, “Can’t something be done about this?!” they actually do it.

Thank you Dr. Paul Falkowski for this book, for your service to older adults, and for hopefully inspiring more long-term care facilities to hire an outstanding volunteer manager and set the bar high for their volunteer program.