She may be only 27, but Brittany McNaboe has been inspiring and motivating Heritage Manor Nursing Home residents with her sincerity, enthusiasm, and dedication for a decade. In recognition of her significant contributions to the seniors’ quality of life, the Health Care Association of New Jersey (HCANJ) has honored Brittany as the 2018 Volunteer of the Year.
“Without a doubt, Brittany has positively impacted our residents’ emotional, social, and psychological well-being,” says Caroline Silva, Christian Health Care Center’s (CHCC) Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator. “She has changed the lives of so many residents, such as Michelina Nigro.”
“Five years ago,” Mrs. Nigro says, “Brittany offered to take me to and from programs in all parts of our residence. She was so considerate and full of energy. She brightened my day, and we soon became the best of friends. Each Thursday, we play card games. To some people, this may seem like a small, meaningless pastime, but these little games bring me so much joy, and Brittany knows this. She lights up my life.”
When Brittany began volunteering at CHCC, a job coach worked alongside her due to her developmental disability. After only two years, Brittany no longer required the coach’s assistance, which was a major achievement for her. Today, Brittany distributes newspapers and makes “friendly visits” to residents, and assists with activities.
“CHCC aims to empower individuals with developmental disabilities to lead independent lives rich in purpose and fulfillment. In fact, Christian Health Care Counseling Center has been recognized as a Center of Excellence for Developmentally Disabled Behavioral Health Services,” Ms. Silva says. “Through volunteering here, Brittany is better equipped with the skills to be a true citizen of the community. She is not defined by her developmental disability. Instead, she defines herself by her actions. She works two jobs, exercises daily, walks her dog, and still finds time to volunteer every week.”
Brittany was instrumental in recruiting fellow members of Shining Star 21+ to volunteer at CHCC. This Wyckoff Family YMCA program focuses on enhancing life and occupational skills for developmentally disabled young adults.
“The first day that Shining Star volunteers began, Brittany greeted them enthusiastically, gave them a tour, and introduced them to her residents and staff. They immediately joined in a lively game with residents,” Ms. Silva says. “Brittany was so proud to have recruited such a big group of volunteers.”
Volunteers like Brittany have been at the core of CHCC since it was founded in 1911. Many worked tirelessly to raise funds to convert a 17-room farmhouse into what would become New Jersey’s first private psychiatric hospital. Others walked miles from neighboring towns to assist with the renovation.
CHCC’s formal volunteer program was established in 1961. Today’s volunteer force numbers 126 adults and 72 juniors who donate 13,700 hours of service last year. Brittany is a source of inspiration for this entire volunteer team, as well as staff and residents.
“By reaching her own potential – and sometimes exceeding it – Brittany inspires staff, volunteers, and residents to live extraordinary lives,” Ms. Silva says. “Her passion for life, caring approach, and smile are infectious. Brittany will offer the simplest compliments, but they are powerful. We’ve all learned from Brittany that small gestures go a long way. She is a beacon of optimism at CHCC.”