Holding a job isn’t the only way someone can contribute to society. Myrna Gorchoff, an East Dallas resident and recent graduate of Richland College who suffers from a rare neurological disorder called Dandy-Walker Syndrome, is learning that volunteerism also can be a productive career.
Dandy-Walker affects balance, sensory perception and physical stamina, making it difficult to hold a full-time job. But the disorder hasn’t stopped Gorchoff from helping others through her work with REACH of Dallas, the Dallas Head Injury Association and the Coalition for Transportation.
Several years ago, Gorchoff began volunteering with REACH of Dallas, an agency working to help disabled individuals live as independently as possible. The agency needed volunteers to provide peer counseling to its clients.
“I decided maybe I could do someone some good,” Gorchoff says.
She began counseling disabled individuals on how to take care of themselves. She also reorganized the agency’s resource library.
Not long after Gorchoff began working with REACH, Kris Herron, the agency’s volunteer coordinator, took maternity leave. Gorchoff filled in during Herron’s absence, matching interested volunteers with clients needing assistance.
She matched a younger woman with an elderly woman who needed someone to drive her to the Dallas Summer Musicals. She found a volunteer to walk with a blind woman whose seeing eye dog was put to sleep. She found volunteers to clean the homes of those unable to do it themselves.
“I used to think that volunteers were all housewives,” Gorchoff says. “But there are all kinds of wonderful people out there and all different kinds of needs.”
As she learned more about the variety of volunteer jobs available, Gorchoff began looking for other agencies that needed her services. She began working with the Dallas Head Injury Association, and she plans to write a column for the agency’s newsletter focusing on legislation affecting those with head injuries.
Gorchoff also volunteers for the Coalition for Transportation, a group that works with DART and the Handirides program.
“I wanted to see if I could make the Handirides system better for myself, and I realized it might help somebody else, too,” Gorchoff says.
“She see something that needs to be done,” Herron says, “and she does it.”
Gorchoff recently wrote and designed a complaint form that can be used by clients who have problems with Handirides. Her goal is to have these forms available at social service agencies for clients to fill out themselves, rather than relying on agency staff members.
REACH of Dallas needs hundreds of volunteers to help its many clients throughout Dallas. Volunteers can help these disabled and homebound individuals with grocery shopping, lawn care or meal preparation. Volunteers also are needed to take individuals in wheelchairs to the mall or movie theater.
The Volunteer Center is a United Way agency serving as a clearinghouse to recruit and refer volunteers for more than 750 agencies in Dallas. Thousands of volunteer positions are waiting to be filled. Call the Volunteer Center at 826-6767 for more information about these and other volunteer opportunities.
DIVE INTO A NEW VOLUNTEER JOB with the Dallas Museum of Natural History. The museum’s newest exhibit, “Sharks: Fact and Fantasy,” runs Oct. 2-Jan. 2. Volunteers can serve as tour guides, make presentations for students or help in the gift shop. Weekday, weekend and evening opportunities are available.
ENJOY THE FOOD AND FUN at the Asian Festival, an annual event celebrating and showcasing the Asian community in East Dallas. Come join the fun Sept. 19 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Exall Park Recreation Center. Volunteers can help with setup, crowd control, activities and cleanup.
TRICK OR TREAT? It’s time for the annual Halloween carnival, Oct. 30 at the Exline Recreation Center. East Dallas children will enjoy game booths, concessions and a haunted house. Volunteers are needed to manage game booths, sell tickets and serve as chaperones.
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