Helping Seniors Drives Oak Creek Interfaith Volunteer
Oak Creek resident Cathi Maletta is one of many volunteers involved with local Interfaith program.
Like a lot of first-timers, Cathi Maletta was hesitant when approached to be a volunteer driver with South Milwaukee-Oak Creek Interfaith.
She had been involved with the group before. With her neighbor being the group's director, she had served on the organizaton's board for a few years.
But driving around people she didn't know? Maletta wasn't sure if she wanted to make that kind of commitment, especially since her parents had died not long before.
"I think there was still that hurt, that void from where my parents had passed away. And it was just like, 'No, I can't go there. I just can't go there," she recalled thinking. "Then I finally said, 'OK, take the step.' There was always the little caveat that if it doesn't work, you don't have to do it again.
"But you know what? I'm hooked."
Six years later, Maletta is on her second notebook filling in little details about all of the people she has helped get to doctor's appointments, make grocery store trips and run errands that they otherwise would not be able to.
South Milwaukee-Oak Creek Interfaith Director Jennifer Rundell calls them the "bread-and-butter of the community." The people in the passenger side of Maletta's vehicle have an entire lifetime's worth of stories. Many lived through the Great Depression, a World War, a moon landing and more. But they're now left with nowhere else to turn - many of their friends are gone, and a lot of them don't have family that live in the area.
Not only does Maletta and some 60 other Interfaith volunteers help older residents get from Point A to Point B, the relationships often extend far beyond the drive itself.
Many of them, simply needing someone to talk to, form a strong connection with volunteers, Maletta said.
"I have a motto - we should plant some trees we will never sit under," she said. "If the nicest thing you can say at my funeral is that my house is spotless, I have not lived a good life. People are more important than things and you realize that (volunteering with Interfaith) and at the end of the day, you feel really good."
Maletta has volunteered, on average, about once a week for the past six years. Her notebooks help her keep track of clients' names and what their interests are. That way, if she gets the same client again, she knows what to talk about.
Maletta sees a tremendous value in the volunteer opportunity and hopes to provide an example for others.
"Young people of today have to see us taking care of the older people," Maletta said. "I think you need to take care of the elders whether they live in the community, or they're a family member, a relative, or just an acquaintance."