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Hope volunteers brighten the day, lighten the mood

Days can be dark for those with mental illness. Catholic Charities’ Hope Community Support Program is a bright spot for many adults who use the building at 157 Roosevelt Road, St. Cloud, as a connecting place where they joke with friends and converse with the clinical staff and mental health practitioners. Volunteers Larry Lieser and Karen Krey join the activities weekly, their pleasant personalities adding to the diverse mix, their unique talents to healing. 

            Larry jokes and teases, says Program Coordinator Dee Dee Wiener, noting everyone has fun together. Yet, the 72-year-old retired Texaco manager is also dedicated to his volunteer assignment. He’s volunteered two hours each Wednesday for eight years, and the staff regards him as a colleague.

            Wiener notes Larry is “phenomenal.” One of his responsibilities is to take folders filled with 100+ sheets of the staff’s clinical paperwork and organize the forms and reports by client name for filing in individual client folders. This record updating is done with Wiener and includes reviewing checklists and recording dates, important information that must be legible and accessible for audits. It is serious business, and Larry takes his responsibility seriously.

            A second of Larry’s responsibilities includes taking data from the paperwork and accurately updating individual treatment plans, located on a program computer. This activity is exacting and tedious, yet Wiener has never found Larry to make an error. And the staff is grateful that Larry’s generosity allows them more client time.

            Larry doesn’t realize his impact on the department, says Wiener. “Everybody, theoretically, has to get out of the house, right? And you have to do something,” he explains, deflecting any praise.

            Client interaction of another sort occurs when certified yoga instructor Karen Krey holds Thursday morning classes on the second level of Hope Community Support. Program Manager Sue Hanks first met Krey when she volunteered yoga lessons at the St. Cloud Children’s Home, and invited her to hold a session for Hope. Over the past three years, Krey’s classes have averaged four to eight men and women, aged thirty-something to 70-something.

            The experience is fun and gratifying, explains Krey, who enjoys exercising with clients, and sometimes, staff. She notes the benefits of yoga are many. These include increased strength, flexibility, body awareness, and focus. Yoga also relieves stress, anxiety, and mild depression, helping free people from those loops of negative thought that everyone has.

            Besides volunteering, Krey teaches yoga at Midtown Fitness, creates and displays artwork in various St. Cloud galleries, and tends flower gardens at Wapicada Golf Course, Sauk Rapids. Plus, Krey and her husband are the parents of two young adult children. Her days are full; still, she’ll continue volunteering.

            “As long as people show up, I will show up,” says Krey, who enjoys helping others feel better physically, and to feel better about themselves. “That’s rewarding.”

            Hope Community Support Program staff and clients find their association with volunteers Larry Lieser and Karen Krey rewarding as well, adding brightness to their days. And for these two volunteers, the feeling appears to be mutual.