Visit-A-Bit Volunteer Story: Mary Stiebel
Mary Stiebel is a St. Louis native who lives in Kirkwood, Mo. She is retired and has a background in working with people with developmental disabilities to place them in jobs. Between that, raising her seven children and being a devout Christian, service has always been a big part of Mary’s life. In retirement, she wanted to maintain that commitment.
That’s why she was so excited when she found out about Visit-A-Bit through her church. Mary was in charge of the Eucharistic Ministers, and another church member told her that Visit-A-Bit might be a good opportunity for that team to get out and serve the community as they were already bringing people communion.
Mary was soon paired with a couple, both in their eighties, who live in University City, Mo. Mary has been visiting them every week for over a year, a commitment she wishes people realized is not as daunting as it sounds.
One part of Mary’s visits that she loves is how the learning goes both ways. She’s helped the couple manage things around their home, and recently, they helped her and her husband navigate the healthcare system to get hearing aids they needed. “I’m like, oh my gosh! Here they are helping me, and I’m supposed to be helping them!” says Mary.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented some challenges for the Visit-A-Bit program, mainly that visits had to be over the phone only. “Phone conversations were rough. It’s very easy for the hour to go by [in person], but on the phone it was very difficult.” Because of this, the hour wasn’t always filled, but Mary happily supplemented this time by calling her seniors two or three other times throughout the week to check in.
Now that visits have resumed in-person, Mary is careful to take the necessary precautions to keep herself and her seniors safe. “I’m very aware of everything since my husband has lung problems,” says Mary, so she’s a firm believer in masks, washing her hands, using hand sanitizer and stressing that her seniors do the same.
For Mary, Visit-A-Bit has been a great motivator during the pandemic. “Honestly, it’s what keeps me going. There are people like me who are older and sitting at home, and it’s so terrible to just sit at home, so go and get the reward of doing something for somebody else.”
This innate motivation and commitment for going above and beyond is what won Mary the Volunteer of the Quarter Award, though Mary’s response to the honor was one of humility. “I don’t work for stuff like that. I don’t expect anything; the reward is visiting the people… There’s so much hatred in the world, and [these seniors] have to know that they are worth something, that they do have value, and when you show somebody that, it certainly comes back to you.”