Jennifer Shepley is a West County native who volunteers with the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis’ (VNA) Visit-A-Bit program. She has been with the program for almost five years and is the recipient of their Quarterly Volunteer Award because of her dedication to the program and passion for volunteering with seniors.
Leaving the Corporate World
Shepley worked in the corporate world for 22 years before making the decision to leave in 2016 to pursue a career in nutrition and fitness. She is a nutrition specialist and teaches yoga, weight training and spin.
When she left her corporate career, she had free time she wanted to fill with something that allowed her to give back, and she found that through volunteering with seniors.
“I was looking for a lot of different things, trying to figure out what worked best for my schedule,” said Shepley. “A lot of places I couldn’t commit to, but Visit-A-Bit is flexible. I saw Michele [Prevedel, Visit-A-Bit Director,] on Channel 2 one morning talking about the Visit-A-Bit program. It was ramping up at the time, and it sounded like a great fit for me.”
Interest in Volunteering with Seniors
What made Shepley interested in volunteering with seniors specifically was the loss of an elderly aunt she was very close with.
“She was like a second mom to me,” said Shepley . “I spent a lot of time with her, taking her out to dinner once a week, going grocery shopping… When I had the chance to spend time with someone that I knew might be lonely or not see people outside of their family or nursing staff, that really resonated with me. I know how much my aunt enjoyed our visits. I thought this could be a really good thing for everybody involved.”
More than Conversations
When Shepley was paired with her current senior, she was immediately reminded of her aunt, and the visits felt deeper than seeing someone to have a mindless conversation. Prior to COVID, Shepley visited in person, but now they visit via phone and continue to have meaningful talks.
Conversations usually begin with the “question of the week” that Visit-A-Bit volunteers are sent, but Shepley is always delighted with where their discussions go from there. Shepley has learned a lot about her senior’s family, interests and history, and has shared those same details with her senior.
“I really feel like any time you have a new and rewarding friendship, it just enhances your life,” said Shepley. “It makes you more compassionate when you see somebody is homebound and doesn’t have that flexibility to get in their car and have the same independence they used to. It’s made me a more well-rounded person. Any time that you can give back, whatever you’re doing, you’re doing something for another and not expecting anything in return, yet you get so much in return as a pleasant surprise.”
If you’re interested in volunteering with seniors through Visit-A-Bit, visit https://visitabit.org/ and learn how you can get involved today!