When Sarah Underwood was just 24, she lost her father to cancer. In her grief, she likely couldn't have imagined that her experience would allow her to more fully enrich the lives of others, but in her new role with WesleyLife, she's poised to do just that.
Sarah joined WesleyLife in December 2016 as volunteer coordinator after working full- and part-time since 2009 at Edgewater, WesleyLife's Community for Healthy Living in West Des Moines, as a lifestyle coordinator. She also worked for the American Cancer Society in an events-related role.
Her new position will enable her to leverage her college studies in family services and gerontology, but also will allow her to do what she does best -- be of assistance to others, and help channel the talents of those who wish to do the same.
"I was very close to my grandparents. When I was 10, my grandma passed away and my grandpa moved into a retirement community," Sarah says. "I loved it there; my mom still talks about how I went up to everybody and talked to them, and that I was just very comfortable in that environment. I always wished I could spend more time there."
When Sarah's father was ill, she also became familiar with hospice services. A naturally compassionate person, she came to realize through that experience that she had an intense desire to "give back" -- in effect, to repay those who had helped her entire family cope with an emotionally devastating situation.
That's precisely why Sarah's initial focus in her new role will be on strengthening the WesleyLife Hospice volunteer program.
"I was stunned by all the amazing things hospice did for my dad and for all of us," Sarah says. "The hospice nurses also helped me understand that everyone deals with grief differently, and no matter who you are or how you react, support is so important. I look forward to helping people find fulfillment by helping others through such tough times."
Sarah says that in her new position, she'll also try to encourage other young professionals to become open to the prospect of working in the senior-living industry.
"The people we serve have so much knowledge and have lived so much life," Sarah says. "It's healing for me to work with them, and it also opens me up to so many things I didn't know. I feel fortunate every time I get to talk with a resident and learn from what that person has to offer."
Sarah will be working out of WesleyLife's Network Support Center in Johnston. If you'd like to learn more about volunteer opportunities with WesleyLife, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.