Senate District 6 Unsung Hero
Volunteer at Hart Senior Center
Hart's Healthy Pantry and Triple R Adult Day Program
Older adults are one of our most vulnerable populations. Not only is there a greater risk to their overall health, but too many face economic and food insecurities, social isolation and depression.
Recognizing the important needs of older adults in our community, Carol McNerney has made helping out a part of her life. Carol volunteers at the Ethel MacLeod Hart Senior Center, which is the heart of operations for the City of Sacramento Older Adult Services division. In addition to providing a wide array of supportive services, the center is a gathering place for people who come together to stretch their horizons, have fun, learn new things, make friends and discover the joys of life after age 50.
Learn more about Carol below and to find more information on how you can help too, visit the Hart Senior Center Website.
Tell us a little about yourself:
Volunteering with Hart's Healthy Pantry, I feel I have come full circle. I was born in Ghana, where my father was employed by Catholic Relief Services and oversaw food delivery to people in impoverished villages.
When I was two years old, my family returned to the United States and I was raised in Detroit, Michigan. I went to college in the Midwest and obtained my degree in Accounting and History. Over time, I grew tired of cold, long winters and was happy when a job opportunity arose in sunny California.
While I lived in Southern California, I would occasionally come to Sacramento to visit friends who lived here and I grew to love the pace of the city and its size. When it was time for another move, I chose to make Sacramento my home because I love weather and the proximity to a bustling, big city, the mountains and the ocean.
How are you making a difference in your community?
I enjoy volunteering at the Hart Senior Center because it fits my interests and passion to work with older adults. I started at the Center when I saw a volunteer recruitment posting for a new food distribution program they were looking to develop in partnership with Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services. The program, which our team named Hart's Healthy Pantry, provides nutritious groceries to low income older adults and is now in its second year. I am happy to work with such a great group of people and I feel that I get so much more out of it than I put in.
Through volunteering with the food distribution, I learned about Triple R, an adult day care program that operates out of the Hart Senior Center. I began volunteering there in January of 2016 and initially, I wasn't very familiar with this type of social day program for older adults with memory loss. I now consider it a tremendous resource that is underutilized. Each week, I assist staff with carrying out scheduled activities including art and exercise. The staff are so caring and supportive and if I had a family member with memory loss, I would absolutely consider enrolling them in Triple R.
What inspires your community efforts?
Each month I look forward to Hart's Healthy Pantry. It is always great to reconnect with the staff and work with a talented volunteer team. But I so enjoy seeing the individuals who participate each month in the program. They are so appreciative and often share stories of how they used last months items or will use the various items they receive in the current pantry. The sense of relief they feel in knowing they have healthy food to carry them through the month is very apparent and it is always inspiring when they talk about sharing some of their food items with neighbors or others in need. I am equally excited about the weekly opportunity to walk through the doors to the Triple R program. The energy, care and compassion of the staff is amazing and I am blessed to have the opportunity to support them. The time I get to enjoy with the participants through the various activities is very special. But what is most inspiring, is the dedicated caregivers who provide their constant love and support day in and day out. They are truly examples of the real unsung heroes!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I don't think I've had one single-most accomplishment; I'm looking to the future for that! However, I am so thankful to have tried new things and made the most of opportunities as they have presented themselves, whether it be personal, professional or educational.
What have you struggled most with in your life?
Though it's not necessarily a struggle, I've always juggled several competing interests, both personally and professionally. Like most people, I've often felt that there aren't enough hours in the day to focus solely on one pursuit and give it 100%. I think we are left only imagining the possibility, if our efforts could be focused.
What lessons are important for future generations?
My advice for future generations would be to work hard and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Engage with others around you and truly value the friendships and familial relationships you have. Go after what really interests you, don't just go through the motions of life. Most importantly, remember the golden rule and demonstrate care and compassion for others.
If there is one problem in our community that you wish you could fix, what would it be?
I feel strongly that we must do more to support low-income older adults in our community. Seniors who have adequate finances and a network of support through family and friends have more access to resources and those who don't can fall through the cracks. Seniors are part of our population that are often overlooked, especially those who are homebound and prone to isolation. Caring and advocating for these seniors is left to the family, but I feel that it should be more of a community effort and I am proud to be part of programs that support older adults in our area.
How do you decompress?
I am a big sports fan; my favorite sport is tennis! I used to be more of an active participant, now I am mostly a spectator. I've traveled to Paris for the French Open and would love to attend Wimbledon one day. Outside of my adoration of Roger Federer, I also unwind by cooking; my favorite dishes to prepare are pasta and seafood!