There is so much behind-the-scenes work that makes a place like Saint John’s Program for Real Change work. The public can see and read about the mission and the results, but what it takes to actually make it all run is almost overwhelming to consider. So, when folks want to become a part of the program by volunteering, there are so many ways to volunteer.

Enter Carol Hood and her sister, Margaret Morris, our Volunteers of the Month, a dynamic duo who have made an indelible mark and impression.

Five years ago, after retiring from the California Department of Mental Health where she was the community health director, Carol wanted to donate time and talent to a worthy cause; enter Saint John’s. Carol was drawn wholeheartedly into the mission, one that shows “respect for women with such great challenges, and a program that led to making a long-term difference in their lives.”

Starting as an assistant with the office staff on the Integrated Health Services (IHS) team at Saint John’s led quickly to larger tasks as Carol began to help with data entry work. It was then, three years ago, that she invited her sister, Margaret Morris, recently retired from her job as a portfolio manager for Cal State Teachers Retirement System, to help with this project – from home. Margaret, too, had known about the great work done at Saint John’s so she was happy for the invitation to help with, as she says, “a wonderful cause.” It was a perfect opportunity for Margaret, who was also her husband’s care-giver, to find fulfillment through this volunteer work that utilized her experience at data integrity and organization.

No small task was their goal…..the duo set up a complete new data entry system for all of Saint John’s clients. Clinical Director Tasha DeLeon Lee says that now, the narratives of each client’s story (demographics, daily activity and charting, progress reports etc.) are all in one central data base so that, when needed (which is often 10 times per day), any information can readily be accessed. It has been a huge task, and Tasha cannot contain her appreciation. “These ladies have been amazing!”

Unfortunately for Saint John’s, Carol must “retire” as volunteer; her work as the president of the California Mental Health Alliance is taking more time than she had anticipated, and she still needs to keep active with the Sacramento Banjo Band playing at retirement homes. Fortunately, however, Margaret will still be working her magic, running and managing reports for Saint John’s three to eight hours per week and often on the weekends. For Margaret, the work has “opened my eyes to the need” in our community. “Following the success of the graduates, especially those with children, is so fabulous. It just feels good to do my small part to help.”

When asked what memories Carol will take with her, she says that it will be the times when she saw how “loved and respected the clients were,” and “seeing a woman go from being an uncertain and scared new resident to a graduate with a new life.” Carol will miss Saint John’s, and they certainly will miss her sweet nature and generous spirit. They have been fortunate to have had her as part of the family – so much so that she recently made a baby quilt for Associate Clinical Social Worker Anastasiya’s impending arrival!

Saint John’s Program for Real Change cannot run without the support of wonderful volunteers like Carol and Margaret. Truly, too, these ladies exemplify the spirit of love and hope that permeates our community. Thank you Carol and Margaret!

By Ellen Gemma, Guest Blogger and Volunteer, Former Asst. Principal, Jesuit High School, Former Principal, St. John the Evangelist School

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