Giving Back to Her Community: Victorian Village Volunteer Shares Her Story
For Wanda Hoffman, the move to a townhome at the Victorian Village Courts was a simple one. After raising her two children, she, like many people, was balancing caregiving for her mother-in-law and providing childcare for her grandchildren. In addition, her husband’s Parkinson’s made living in a tri-level home difficult. They knew it was time to look for a place that could simplify their lives. After visiting several different townhome communities, Victorian Village had the edge on all of them.
“We were moving from Park Forest, and this was still close to our church and our friends, and we loved this area. And we knew the Providence name,” she says, as her mother-in-law lived in one of the skilled nursing communities. “The people who worked there were so friendly. We appreciated the faith-based approach to care, and the compassion we saw from staff.”
In addition, the healthcare available from Victorian Village was important.
“At the time, they only had Independent and Assisted Living,” Wanda says. “But that was enough to give us the peace of mind that if we needed more help in the future, especially with my husband’s health needs, it would be right there.”
The close-knit Courts offered a safe place of community as well.
“When we first moved here in 2007, we were still babysitting our grandkids a couple days a week, so this corner townhome was perfect. An extra bedroom they could sleep in, no traffic on the block, and lots of room to play,” she says. “And for us, we enjoyed the fellowship. There’s potlucks once a month, a New Year’s Eve party, cards at the Community Center—just great neighbors and friends.”
Those neighbors and friends became even more vital when Wanda’s husband passed away about a year and a half after they moved to the Courts. “I was so glad to have a community around me when he died,” she says. “And I was so thrilled I didn’t have to make big decisions about moving or downsizing while I was grieving.”
It was after her husband’s death that Wanda became more involved with volunteering at Victorian Village. “I had been so busy with him and the grandchildren, and now suddenly I had more time,” she says. “I was able to volunteer for whatever needed to be done.”
Wanda had already been active at the Grand Victorian, Victorian Village’s Independent Living apartment building. “I go to the Fitness Center and exercise classes,” she says. “We go out to plays and musicals, and out to eat—they take us on their bus. And then we also have card games, Wii Bowling tournaments, a Senior Prom.”
"That’s my community, too,” she says. “I have so many friends over there—it’s amazing.”
Now with her free time, Wanda serves as secretary on the board of the Townhome Association, in addition to spending more time at the Victorian Inn, the Assisted Living and Memory Care apartments, and completing volunteer tasks for the entire Victorian Village community. “I call bingo, help fold and distribute the monthly newsletter,” she says. “I help with the computer word games, keep score for the Wii Bowling tournament. When there’s a need, I help.”
Wanda holds out the activity calendar. “I highlight all the activities that I either want to participate in, or want to help with,” she says. “As you can see, I’m very busy, and I’m over at the apartment buildings Monday through Friday.”
Several of the years she’s volunteered at Victorian Village, she’s been awarded for most service hours, but Wanda never thought of her work that way.
“I never used the word ‘volunteer.’ I just did things,” she says. “But I guess that’s what I’ve been doing for a long time and didn’t realize it.”
Volunteering has been a life-long work for Wanda. “I’ve done it all my life—at my children’s schools, at church,” she says, recounting over 60 years teaching children at church. “Here when I help out, it’s my way of giving back to the place I live, where so many people have given me so much over the years.”
“I think you learn so much from the people you work with, every one of those people,” she says. “We need to get to know people for who they are and for what they’ve experienced, not just for what’s happening to them at the moment.”
Wanda looks at the many people who she’s seen come to volunteer at Victorian Village, people of all ages. She’s stayed in touch with a high school volunteer who has since married and had a baby, and still comes to visit the residents. “It’s a wonderful experience,” she says. “If you can make people happy just by being friendly, just by asking about them and talking with them and doing things with them, teaching them something new or they teach you something new—that is how I get paid back.”