Annie Hancock, development director for Ave Maria Village, said the group of volunteers at Ave Maria is effective because they are active people with big personalities.

"That seems to be the secret," she said, speaking of the group that helps keep things running smoothly at the long-term care facility. "They are very active, most volunteer at multiple locations. Every single volunteer has that ambition and enthusiastic personality."

The enthusiasm earns the volunteers something other than money.

"Satisfaction," said Sandy Hill, one of the roughly 40 volunteers involved at Ave Maria Village. "Whenever I volunteer I feel a sense of satisfaction. I like helping people."

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The themes of satisfaction and helping people continue through the volunteer group.

"Meeting all these people is great," said Laurie Mosolf, one of the volunteers. "There is such a variety and a lot of nice people."

Being a volunteer at Ave Maria offers a lot of variety. Some of the tasks, such as the group's fundraising efforts for the kitchen renovation project at Ave Maria, support the entire facility.

Other volunteer tasks provide a more personal service to the residents at Ave Maria and include playing bingo with the residents, reading to them, talking with the residents and accompanying residents to clinic appointments.

"They go to the appointments with residents that don't have a family," Hancock said. "That way they don't feel so alone."

Visiting with or reading to residents can take on a special meaning if that resident is nearing the end of his or her life.

"It is really rewarding to help others," said Madeline Hofer, a volunteer. "Someday it could be us."

Volunteers don't have set hours but most put in between 2 and 8 hours per day and attend a monthly meeting.

"We talk about upcoming fundraisers and talk about experiences and concerns," Hancock said. "There is some education involved but it is a very happy time."

The meeting also serves to schedule fundraising events and set goals.

The happiness among the volunteers spreads to the employees at Ave Maria.

"They all enjoy interacting with the residents and the staff," Hancock said. "That makes it good for all of us."

The volunteers at Ave Maria Village are almost unanimously female. Hancock said just one man volunteers on a regular basis. His schedule brings him to Ave Maria every Thursday to shoot pool with the men who live at the facility.

Hancock said the benefits of volunteering are not one-sided and the volunteers benefit.

"It keeps them young," she said. "They are all too active to sit at home and do nothing."

The volunteers also credit the management at Ave Maria Village for creating an atmosphere that allows them to thrive.

"Annie (Hancock) makes it good for us," said Ardina Bentz, a volunteer for the past 10 years.

The respect the volunteers have for Hancock shows in their responses to the needs of Ave Maria.

"When I call any volunteer, if they are available, they are here asking what they can do," she said.

Hancock said the importance of the volunteers cannot be minimized at Ave Maria Village.

"The volunteers are the heart of the facility," she said. "They fill the voids we'd have without them."

And it would appear spending time volunteering at Ave Marie Village meets an important need in the lives of the volunteers.

"Thank the Lord we can do what we do," said Elaine Supir, a volunteer.