Our House News


 
 
Nov 03, 2017
Volunteer of the Month - Alan Koch

Therapy Dog Team
Volunteer since 1994

What drew you to Our House?
Like many people, I was drawn years ago to the work of AIDS organizations as more and more friends and acquaintances died in the rush of the epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s. Our House was an early leader in working with acute-care HIV patients and I was impressed with what I heard about the compassion and dignity they were offering along with medical care. So in 1994 I started volunteering as a cook with helpers from First Congregational Church.  We quickly grew to appreciate that each time we took a seat with the residents for dinner, we sat down with some pretty brave and inspiring people. And I wondered as I left Our House each time, “Who was serving whom”?

What’s your favorite aspect of volunteering?
After cooking for about 11 years, I took some time off before returning in a new volunteer role. During those years, my dog Maggie and I trained as a Pet Partners therapy team, so I could do a different kind of one-on-one work with residents.  Each Monday, when we visit residents, Maggie can count on getting her chest scratched and I can count on the morning’s conversation unfolding in almost any direction.  We also encourage residents to take walks in the community, and most recently started a meditation group.  Many times, through the year, Maggie and I sat with residents at the end of life. We did nothing extraordinary. Maggie curled up on the bed. I may have held a hand. Sometimes there was conversation, but often just silence. They were not easy spaces, but where we wanted to be to honor some courageous people we had known all too briefly. There is nothing we do that we do alone.  We are surrounded by staff who are consistently compassionate, joyful and smart.  We simply follow their cues and their lead. We get insights, we get direction, we get encouragement and we get thanked. Maggie and I keep coming back. It’s not for the “thank you,” but for the remarkable community Our House has created and the tiny place we have found in it.

What do you like to do besides volunteering?
I enjoy personal writing and spending time in nature, especially the Northwest and the deserts of the Southwest. Both connect with something deeper inside me.

What is something about you that would surprise others?
I grew up in a tiny farming community in Iowa, with a giant claim to being the “popcorn Capital of the World.’ So I love popcorn.

 

 

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